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 A quirky, diffuse, and quietly satisfying second collection from the author of How I Came West, and Why I Stayed (1993). Over the course of six stories and a novella, Baker shows off her talent for capturing people in a kind of mundane, confused glory: characters who are often adrift, wondering how they ended up where they are. Opening the book, the title piece introduces Oleander Joy, a processing clerk at the Institute for the Study of American Sexual Appetite, who has spent most of her life in a state of ``suspended animation'': She wastes each year dreaming of summer, when she will work detasseling corn and fantasizing about her corn crew boss, Wanda Beaver. ``Everything is Nothing'' is the bittersweet tale of a woman who, after her mother's death, returns to her hometown on the day of a Ku Klux Klan march, while in ``Convocation,'' middle-aged Judith soldiers on, trying not to be crushed by melancholy, though her brilliant daughter is schizophrenic and her husband has left her: ``...they had all gotten used to it. Used, that is, to never knowing for sure where they stood, what would happen tomorrow. And to the knowledge that they would never, any of them, be quite happy.'' Finally, the novella, ``Almost Home,'' finds city-dweller Decker moving out to the wilderness for peace and quiet, only to realize that in the 20th century the wilderness is anything but quiet: It is, rather, a complex, noisy landscape full of eco-terrorists and drug-peddlers, survivalists and mystics, all struggling to coexist. Baker has a light touch that keeps her from easy answers or clichÇs as her characters muddle through life. Overall, then, a charming, graceful collection.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-8118-1064-X
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Chronicle
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1995