Books by Yvonne Nelson Perry

Released: Aug. 1, 1994

These 15 minuscule, deceptively casual stories (by an author previously published in small literary journals) might not be great literature, but many have deep, and sometimes haunting, echoes. Born in Polynesia, raised in Hawaii, Perry paints an exotic portrait of island life that few outsiders see: fishermen, farmers, the poor, the crazed. Modern (or merchandising) elements coexist alongside tradition. Squaring off for a cockfight, one of the trainers muses about his opponent being angry because he got the man's granddaughter pregnant (she had an abortion). A pig farmer travels from Iowa to perform the ritual pig slaughter that attracts crowds of tourists. Continually, readers are reminded of the intense love-hate relationship humans have with nature, beasts, and other humans. Metamorphoses so natural to mythology (and its lasting heritage in superstition) occur often, though they seem contrived in the weaker stories. Take the case of a farm woman who discovers a mongoose stealing chicken eggs and later attacking the bird; she waits for his return with her husband's rifle cocked and ready, wonders what her husband's doing out all night, sees him drive up, shoots: ``The mongoose was back.'' At times condescendingly aware of her readership, Perry weaves in explanations for unfamiliar words, making lesser stories read like translations. Some of the finest pieces are written from a child's point of view: the girl no one wants taken to an old woman's house, another girl covering her ears as her mother is raped, an orphan being led away by her stepfather, one boy challenging another to dive from a deadly cliff. With simple gestures, Perry captures a child's complex vulnerability, sensitivity, and stubbornness. With illustrations by LouAnne Kromschroeder-Davis. Here you have it: a meeting of Jorge Luis Borges and Joseph Campbell, set against a backdrop of lais and luaus. Read full book review >