ALL MY RELATIONS by Christopher McIlroy


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 McIlroy, winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, offers unflinching and original portrayals of human weakness, solitude, and survival in the rural Southwest. In these stories, imperfect characters leading battered lives are as indomitable as the granite mountains and canyons that surround them. Dangerously receptive to the needs of others, McIlroy's characters drink more than they should, fare badly in relationships, and are prone to infidelity. In ``The March of the Toys,'' Claire escapes her self-destructive brother and slowly dying father in Delaware only to move in with an unemployed alcoholic in Tucson. After leaving her lover, she befriends Leah, whose much younger live-in boyfriend is hopelessly unfaithful. As Leah's domestic life deteriorates, Claire offers commiseration, and a therapeutic walk in the mountains ends in unexpected intimacy with the two women in Leah's bed. Sensing Leah's embarrassment about the incident, Claire explains it away and suppresses her own desire. Similarly accommodating is Milton, a Pima Indian in the title story, who trades the drunken, rootless life of the reservation men for sober, backbreaking work on a white man's ranch. Milton loses his job and family when, on a visit to the reservation, he is unable to refrain from drinking with friends in a bar. Accommodation inevitably leads to disappointment, which McIlroy's characters often accept with comprehending grace. Only Boehm, the jilted husband of ``In a Landscape Animals Shrink to Nothing,'' retaliates against his arrogant and faithless wife. On a predivorce vacation in Mexico, he leaves her, drugged with sleeping pills, buried to the neck in the sand of a moonlit beach. Even this ominous adieu, however, is marked by Boehm's untempered love: Before he departs, he carefully brushes the sand from her eyes and cheek. Tightly focused and tersely eloquent, McIlroy's stories chronicle human inconstancy and end up affirming a tranquil wisdom.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8203-1602-4
Page count: 189pp
Publisher: Univ. of Georgia
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1994