A first collection of 13 stories, all from a woman's point of view, all featuring domestic themes. In the title piece, a sorrowful woman recollects the lives of her female friends from childhood to maturity; each of the vignettes is sharply realized but inconclusive. Cohen's subtle ``Fabric'' concerns a middle-aged woman's last desperate attempt to hold onto her husband; the fabric of her life is unraveling, leaving her both poor and alone. In the most winning, and hopeful, of these efforts, ``Maps,'' a woman who is dating a man from a family of unmarried brothers marvels at how the men never talk of anything personal, but merely of highways and routes. Finally, she pointedly questions one of them, asking whether he has a girlfriend. He says he does, and proceeds to describe the route to her house in Ohio. In ``Guests,'' an abusive husband hauls his wife, Amber, off to a New York talk show on which couples discuss their sexual problems—making for a nice premise, except that Cohen opts for such a modest, stylized denouement that it's hard to care about Amber, a mere victim who learns nothing from her adventure. Women like Amber appear in several of these stories, and the better-educated, middle-class, politically correct women who comprise most of Cohen's narrators have a curious, vexed relationship with them. In ``Cousin Rina's Return,'' for instance, a woman in labor has a vision of her beautiful dead cousin, a hillbilly, and the experience seems to offer a curious kind of solace. Similarly, in ``From an Eyelash,'' a woman grieving for her dead child recalls her roommate in the maternity ward: Mavis, a woman who knew precisely who she was. But even this most interesting aspect of Cohen's collection—the contrast between a sophisticated woman and her blue-collar alter ego—is less than it might be. Cohen has talent—her work has appeared in publications like American Fiction and Literary Review—but she's still searching for structure and shape.
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