WHEN A MONKEY SPEAKS by Damian Sharp

WHEN A MONKEY SPEAKS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this evocative collection of stories, the wildness of the Australian bush country mirrors the harsh terrain of the human psyche. The works in Sharp's first book show the trauma and ecstasy possible in human relationships. In ""A Native Son,"" an aborigine describes employers' branding of employees for his master's wife and son. The wife flees, horrified by the cruelty inherent in her husband's authority; the aborigine hangs himself, ashamed to have shown his vulnerability to a woman. After red ants derail a passenger train at the start of the title story, a woman deserts her lover for a stranger while the couple is stranded between connections. In ""The Quiet Murmur of the River,"" a rebellious young woman struggles against her alcoholic father to gain independence. Sharp's attention to characters' thoughts and inner monologues softens the effect of the stories' explosive events; the tales build and descend gently, without losing any of their natural drama. The untamed outback -- where frogs fall from the sky, a woman shakes a kangaroo's hand, and men box on an anthill -- provides a surreal backdrop. Sharp writes with energy and vitality, as when he describes the bush country through the eyes of a young boy: ""Beyond the swamp the land rose and fell in low embankments, the grass long and dry and bright between the trees, quivering in the heat waves, the light rushing into his eyes from the gleaming blue sky and the radiant land."" A haunting gathering of tales that show men and women at war with each other and with the land surrounding them.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco