Woiwode followed his highly acclaimed second novel, Beyond the Bedroom Wall (1975)--about three generations of the Neumiller...

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THE NEUMILLER STORIES

Woiwode followed his highly acclaimed second novel, Beyond the Bedroom Wall (1975)--about three generations of the Neumiller family from North Dakota--with two disappointing outings (Poppa John, 1981; Born Brothers, 1988). Here, he returns to the tried and true: ten of the thirteen stories in this collection were published in The New Yorker or McCall's in the 60's and 70's and eventually became, in somewhat different (usually expanded) form, chapters in Beyond the Bedroom Wall. For the reader unfamiliar with Woiwode's work, this is a nice introduction: with precise lyricism and intense yet subdued emotion, his linked short stories provide satisfying glimpses of the Neumiller family: the courtship of Alpha and Martin; their relationship strained by economic pressures and--in one story--by the life-threatening illness of a son; the five children marked forever by Alpha's death in childbirth. The three remaining stories--all from the 80's, all with previous magazine publications--show son Charles, a would-be actor (shades of Born Brothers), marrying and then struggling with his ghosts, ambitions, and alcohol abuse as he tries to establish a family of his own. Writers and students of literature may find it valuable to compare the stories to Woiwode's 1975 novel, especially in terms of pacing: in some cases, the changes are all but unnoticeable; in others, the novel includes more inner life, family background, and prodigality of detail. But for the general reader who has already read Beyond the Bedroom Wall (recently reissued in paperback), this latest from Woiwode will seem as much marketing as literary event--like a book condensation or a classic movie edited for TV.

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 1989

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1989