From acclaimed Polish writer Huelle (Who Is David Weiser?, 1992), poignantly beautiful stories that limn memories and loss with a subtly nuanced critique of totalitarianism. Set mostly in Gdansk, these seven tales observe the lingering consequences of past events on a country and a family. In ``The Table,'' a boy records the growing tensions between his parents provoked by a table given to his father by a German refugee returning home at the end of WW II: His mother cannot forgive the Germans, and his father cannot forgive the Russians. A new table made under almost miraculous circumstances—Huelle often relies on a quiet, less ebullient, European kind of magic realism—restores family peace as well as revealing a world richer than the drab present. The two most notable stories, explorations of faith and the mystery of life, are ``Snails, Puddles, Rain'' and ``Uncle Henryk,'' both narrated by an imaginative youngster. In the first, while helping his unemployed engineer-father, he witnesses snails climbing a rock ``to catch the voices of the dead'' and begins to let go of his obsession with death and decay. The second shows the narrator, now older, getting lost while skiing with an uncle who has a tragic past and finding shelter in a village that doesn't exist. The title story evokes the past as a youth whose family is about to move meets an old woman who plays Wagner for him; she annoys his mother, but for the narrator ``it was all strange and entrancing and beautiful, like the park in the old photograph.'' In the most overtly political story, ``In Dublin's Fair City,'' a young man mourns his dead grandfather, who had secretly built a submarine in which he hoped to escape to the West. Quiet but powerful journeys of the spirit.
Read full book review >