FIFTY YEARS OF ETERNAL VIGILANCE by Carolyn Thorman

FIFTY YEARS OF ETERNAL VIGILANCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A wonderfully original book, Thorman's first, which centers on two groups of Lithuanians in America, one in Baltimore and the other in West Viginia. Full of homely detail, the stories call up, at their best, the quirky rhythms of a Grace Paley and the poetic compression of a Louise Erdrich. The pieces here are full of the sights and sounds of Lithuanian life--hooked rugs, cabbage rolls, vodka, grated horseradish--and the inevitable conflicts: the way a melting-pot culture profanes and patronizes an ethnic group, and the way an ethnic culture still survives, even if ghettoized. Two of the best stories (""Twin City of Nazareth,"" ""Sweet Chickadee of Grace"") are told by a religious narrator, which allows for the natural use of religious imagery. In ""Sweet Chickadee of Grace,"" Sister Veronica sees Zacko, a boy who needs psychiatric help, rape a girl; the Sister, drawn to Zacko, struggles with her conscience before yielding to old-world incantations rather than the law. Other stories (""God Giving Lithuania to the World,"" ""Anchovy Trees,"" ""Blue Haired Chickens"") feature women worn down by circumstances who nevertheless endure through crafty persistence and faith. The pages are full of crowded row houses and the street clamor of small shops: in ""Binka's Sausage,"" for instance, Jenny argues with her dominating sister Stella that the expense of her first vacation to the Grand Canyon should take precedence over the cost of a new neon sign. At times plot, too hurried, goes against the grain of character, as in ""No Job Too Small,"" where a paroled good-for-nothing husband too conveniently overdoses; but mostly the writing affirms Lithuanian tenacity--a peasant endurance and cunning--in a series of memorable portraits. A very impressive collection--one that affords a compelling and affectionate look at a world that is passing away.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Peachtree