Twenty-six brief stories, organized like a medieval bestiary representing animals A through Z.
A resident of New Mexico and Idaho, newcomer Adam displays an intimate but unsentimental knowledge of the rhythms of ranch life as well as of the array of animals she uses to structure her stories. But her real concern lies with her human characters, mainly women forging lives for themselves out west. The narrator of “Kestral” describes how as a child she always tried and failed to save the injured mockingbirds she found in her yard. Now a grown woman struggling to live alone on a ranch, she begins to understand her life choice only after successfully nursing a wounded kestral that’s run into her windshield. In “Josie,” another woman remembers the moment when daughterly adulation evaporated after her divorced, financially strapped mother allowed her to have a puppy named Josie (“My father named all his dogs ‘Josie’ ”), then had it put to sleep when the family needed to move. Awareness of her mother’s shortcomings mingles with bittersweet nostalgia for childhood and with a lingering grief over her mother’s death ten years earlier. In the charming “Turtle,” newlyweds of limited means spend $80.00 on vet bills to take care of a $7.00 turtle they received as a wedding gift. The final story, “Z is for Zoo,” set in San Diego, ends with a nice appropriateness. A devoted teacher has been fired after ten years at a private school. As she packs her bags, she remembers a favorite class that she took on a field trip to the zoo. Realizing that she has been “shepherding others toward their dreams” but been “afraid of her own,” she sets out to an destination that’s undetermined—though the reader can’t help but assume it will be the rugged ranchland of the rest of Adam’s alphabet.
Elegant minimalism that creates lasting images.