A promising debut from a writer who may cast her net more broadly in time.

ANATOMIES

A NOVELLA AND STORIES

A first collection celebrates in vivid prose those breakthrough moments that lead to understanding or action—in people whose lives may be either fashionable or feminist clichés of despair and disarray.

The settings here range from Oregon to Philadelphia, but the characters, who tend toward the narcissistic and self-absorbed, are not as varied. It’s this insular, even claustrophobic sensibility that makes these 15 well-crafted stories ultimately less affecting—with two exceptions. One is the novella, “Liability,” in which a young bisexual woman fleeing her dysfunctional family moves to Portland, Oregon, a place that seems to suffer from “terminal niceness”; after her counterculture landlord has to be hospitalized and she moves out, however, a chance meeting with her landlord’s troubled teenage daughter, now living on the streets, offers a transforming yet scary opportunity for her to help someone else. Then there’s “I Seen Some Stuf Horabl Stuf Lisen,” in which a single mother, abandoned by her lesbian lover, worrying that she may be damaging her six-year-old son (she slaps him once in the grocery store), is touched by a loving and wise story the boy has written at school. Another piece describes a girl who works as a professional weeper at funerals because she cannot stop crying, although when she begins laughing, all sorts of magic happens (“Aggiornamento”); a gay friend who died from AIDS is recalled by two lesbians and their daughter as they prepare a celebration of his life (“In Case of Emergency”); a young woman with an eating disorder learns that her accomplished mother also once suffered from compulsive behavior (“What’s More”); and an adolescent girl’s nascent sexuality and sense of self are aroused by a sleepover at which a game becomes a catalyst for change and revelation (“The Whole Truth and Nothing But”).

A promising debut from a writer who may cast her net more broadly in time.

Pub Date: May 14, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-24118-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

BEYOND THE GREAT SNOW MOUNTAINS

Superb stylist L’Amour returns (End of the Drive, 1997, etc.), albeit posthumously, with ten stories never seen before in book form—and narrated in his usual hard-edged, close-cropped sentences, jutting up from under fierce blue skies. This is the first of four collections of L’Amour material expected from Bantam, edited by his daughter Angelique, featuring an eclectic mix of early historicals and adventure stories set in China, on the high seas, and in the boxing ring, all drawing from the author’s exploits as a carnival barker and from his mysterious and sundry travels. During this period, L’Amour was trying to break away from being a writer only of westerns. Also included is something of an update on Angelique’s progress with her father’s biography: i.e., a stunningly varied list of her father’s acquaintances from around the world whom she’d like to contact for her research. Meanwhile, in the title story here, a missionary’s daughter who crashes in northern Asia during the early years of the Sino-Japanese War is taken captive by a nomadic leader and kept as his wife for 15 years, until his death. When a plane lands, she must choose between taking her teenaged son back to civilization or leaving him alone with the nomads. In “By the Waters of San Tadeo,” set on the southern coast of Chile, Julie Marrat, whose father has just perished, is trapped in San Esteban, a gold field surrounded by impassable mountains, with only one inlet available for anyone’s escape. “Meeting at Falmouth,” a historical, takes place in January 1794 during a dreadful Atlantic storm: “Volleys of rain rattled along the cobblestones like a scattering of broken teeth.” In this a notorious American, unnamed until the last paragraph, helps Talleyrand flee to America. A master storyteller only whets the appetite for his next three volumes.

Pub Date: May 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-10963-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS

Told through the points of view of the four Garcia sisters- Carla, Sandi, Yolanda and Sofia-this perceptive first novel by poet Alvarez tells of a wealthy family exiled from the Dominican Republic after a failed coup, and how the daughters come of age, weathering the cultural and class transitions from privileged Dominicans to New York Hispanic immigrants. Brought up under strict social mores, the move to the States provides the girls a welcome escape from the pampered, overbearingly protective society in which they were raised, although subjecting them to other types of discrimination. Each rises to the challenge in her own way, as do their parents, Mami (Laura) and Papi (Carlos). The novel unfolds back through time, a complete picture accruing gradually as a series of stories recounts various incidents, beginning with ``Antojos'' (roughly translated ``cravings''), about Yolanda's return to the island after an absence of five years. Against the advice of her relatives, who fear for the safety of a young woman traveling the countryside alone, Yolanda heads out in a borrowed car in pursuit of some guavas and returns with a renewed understanding of stringent class differences. ``The Kiss,'' one of Sofia's stories, tells how she, married against her father's wishes, tries to keep family ties open by visiting yearly on her father's birthday with her young son. And in ``Trespass,'' Carla finds herself the victim of ignorance and prejudice a year after the Garcias have arrived in America, culminating with a pervert trying to lure her into his car. In perhaps one of the most deft and magical stories, ``Still Lives,'' young Sandi has an extraordinary first art lesson and becomes the inspiration for a statue of the Virgin: ``Dona Charito took the lot of us native children in hand Saturday mornings nine to twelve to put Art into us like Jesus into the heathen.'' The tradition and safety of the Old World are just part of the tradeoff that comes with the freedom and choice in the New. Alvarez manages to bring to attention many of the issues-serious and light-that immigrant families face, portraying them with sensitivity and, at times, an enjoyable, mischievous sense.

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-945575-57-2

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more