RETURN TRIPS by Alice Adams


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In Return Trips, her third collection of short stories, Adams works with people on the move, some returning to familiar places, others taking the ultimate trip from which they will not return. Adams' familiar theme of weather--crazy California heat and cold, Mexican sun, Alaskan darkness--is predictably sounded in each of these stories. Weather, even in its changeability, will always be with us, unlike love or sexuality. Predictable, too, is Adams' concentration on polarities: east and west; north and south; young and old; fat and thin. This works well in "Mexican Dust," where Miriam, a size-three, dark-haired woman, finally assumes stature over her three large, fair-haired traveling companions by achieving a clarity of vision none of them quite possesses. It works less well in "Barcelona," where Adams' attempt to make a significant comparison between rich and poor men results in the merely facile. In one of her better stories, "Waiting for Stella," contradictions are neatly played out: the discomfort of intense waiting; the sense of disappointment when the wait is over, of even misery as something to miss. At the story's conclusion, young naive Day (a day visitor, suggesting youth lasts but a day) believes everything is understood and settled while the far wiser and Older Rachel knows nothing is. "New Best Friends," a very fine story, relates the end of a Yankee/southern alliance that, like a vaccination, never quite took. The northern husband's flash of danger, quickly perceived and as quickly dismissed (characteristic of Adams' men), warns him that he, too, may soon become an ending in his wife's life. If these 14 well-crafted stories have more scope than depth, more style than passion, Adams aficionados will not be disappointed in the quality of the writing or the acuity of detail.
Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 1985
ISBN: 0449209539
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1985


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