IN A FATHER'S PLACE by Christopher Tilghman
Kirkus Star


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A superior first collection of seven stories (some previously published in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and The Sewanee Review). Whether set on the Eastern Shore, in Montana, or on the plains, the strong senses of place and character here unfailingly develop into urgent family and social dramas. ""On The Rivershore"" concerns Cecil, a young boy who witnesses his father murder a good-for-nothing among the watermen of Chesapeake Bay. The watermen agree to keep silent when the murdered man is tied to cement blocks and tossed into the Bay: what's notable here is that Tilghman forces these men to examine their motives. The same process occurs in ""Loose Reins"": Hal returns to his mother's ranch in Montana after she marries a ranch-hand, the guileless Roy. Tilghman develops the situation in all its complexity, making good use of flashbacks, before bringing Hat and and Roy together for a reconciliation. ""Hole in the Day"" is a moving tale of a man on the plains who sets out in search of his wife (""a creature of hills and mountains and trees""); pregnant (they already have four kids), she's deserted the family. After a realistically mythic journey, he finds her and they reconcile. ""Norfolk, 1969"" is the chronicle of a marriage: he's in the Navy, and she's an antiwar activist. The story carefully dramatizes the distance between man and wife brought about by circumstances largely beyond their control. Of the others, the title story shows an Eastern Shore father dealing with his children, particularly Nick, who returns to the family mansion with a lover devoted to Derrida and deconstruction; and ""Mary in the Mountains"" is a piece about separation and faith (""the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen""). An auspicious debut: Tilghman has a sure-handed spiritual sense of his people, and he allows them to search (and even find) some sort of dignity in a broken world.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1990
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux