In this uneven collection of ten stories, Rossiter gropes for both a style and a subject, and occasionally latches on to...

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BEYOND THIS BITTER AIR

In this uneven collection of ten stories, Rossiter gropes for both a style and a subject, and occasionally latches on to something worthwhile--the result includes some sensitive tales of domestic affection and generational conflict. At her best, Rossiter relies on simple ironies for poignant effect. The narrator of ""Combinations,"" a mother of six, has had so many children in order to avoid growing up herself. When her eldest is preparing for college, she discovers that he's mistaken her years of inordinate and, to her mind, loving attention as a special dislike. In ""Tea Party,"" two young housewives in Wales chatter at cross purposes; cultures clash because both women--one a native, the other American--idealize the other's life. Equally touching is ""Secrets,"" where a retarded teen-ager doesn't understand that she, not her only friend, is supposed to be the object of pity when the latter leaves for boarding school. Less successful are: ""Kiss the Father,"" a narrative experiment that captures, from an infant's point of view, fleeting images of her father who's mostly absent as a serviceman in wartime; ""Question of Light,"" a slow-going cancer story with a twist--after seven years of bad news and operations, a young mother can't cope with a miraculous remission; ""Skinner,"" a somber tale of a Midwestern pig farmer who must sell the family farm, a subject familiar to recent moviegoers, who'll learn nothing new here; and ""Sinners,"" an unsympathetic portrait of a nanny driven by a heartless fundamentalism, itself the result of some vaguely incestual past. Remaining pieces concern the problems of being a child (""Civil War""), a grandchild (""Star Light, Star Bright"") and childless (""Pandora""). Naive and sentimental at worst, Rossiter also commands a gentle wit and a flair for familial realism.

Pub Date: July 22, 1987

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Univ. of Illinois Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1987