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 Thirteen stories by Canadian Thomas (Intertidal Life, 1985, etc.) that deal with women, young and old, faced with loss and emotional disappointment: a collection that's especially strong on the textures of daily life and on the subtle transformations that as often lead to resignation as epiphany. ``Roots'' is about a couple whose domestic life is broken first by a shattered teapot and then by the wife: `` treat life like a game.'' The give-and-take of a relationship between irreconcilables who stay together sets the bleak tone for the collection. The title story is from the point of view of a girl who comes of age when her father (``a dawdler, a talker, a man of impulse'') is reported missing in action in WW II. ``I know exactly when I stopped loving my mother,'' Frances thinks-it's when she realizes her mother is happier without her beloved father, who finally returns, only to be drummed out, eventually, when he takes a job as ``Mr. Peanut,'' and who, divorced, later dies violently. Like most of the pieces here, the story is evocative of a time and place but is more notable for its emotional precision. The best of these work with such clarity: ``Blue Spanish Eyes'' involves a woman, left by her husband of some 20 years, who spends an afternoon in Scotland with a pleasant young man who (we are made to understand by the briefest of prologues) murdered her. ``Trash'' concerns a narrator who rents her upstairs apartment to the wrong people and comes to see that the world is complicated: as things go awry upstairs, she's finally forced to call a police officer for help. ``The Slow of Despond'' is a finely tuned story of a missionary's wife who finally kills her baby and takes up a new life as a ``widow,'' her way to avoid returning with her husband to an Africa she's unsuited for. Strong stories about women, most of them bruised by life, who learn to survive and find sustenance but not happiness.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-670-82964-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1991