WAKE by Beth Goldner


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Jaunty tales about traditional female goals of family and fulfillment, told in brash, nontraditional scenarios.

Women on the verge of something, anything, all diligently seek the missing piece—be it memento, baby, husband, or coveted tickets to Princess Di’s mansion, conveniently discovered on a dead man’s coffee table. Readable and fast-paced, sprinkled with lit school in-jokes, these 11 coming-of-age tales—from various stages of life—wander through the events and introspections of people desperately seeking to be less alone. Voicey newcomer Goldner sets up situation comedy esoterically. Bravado can sometimes overwhelm her characters, like the “Farm Wife” who, after observing her sister’s widowhood (her husband was struck down by lightning in the cantaloupe patch), wants only to be a wife of somebody, whether “a Doctor’s Wife, a Lawyer’s Wife, a Bus Driver’s Wife, an Underemployed Alcoholic’s Wife, a Trophy Wife,” or whatever, so long as she’s a wife. The route to wifehood is half chick-lit farce, half social commentary: “He married me because I can do just about anything with an egg.” Or “Taxi Dancer,” the story of an unhinged, mean-spirited grad student who mournfully discovers that her pathetic sugar-daddy has finally found legitimate love—with an unpaid-for woman. In “Waxing,” the brazenness of the toenail-painting, dominatrix-waxing, nipple-hair-nabbing heroine is complicated by an unshakable bourgeois fear of welfare moms. There are quieter stories, too. A male protagonist, wistfully observing his daughter’s unplanned pregnancy, reflects back on his own experience. And a teenager remembers the summer her father left home. Stalled by simplistic science-versus-God talk, “Deep Down to the Bottom of This” nevertheless presents one of the more interesting situations: over breakfast, a dying woman handpicks and encourages her husband’s young colleague eventually to take her place, saying simply, “You know Nigel. And maybe you will know Nigel more.”

Breezy first collection, with some potential.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 1-58243-269-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Counterpoint
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2003


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