THE EARTH AND THE SKY by Debbie Lee Wesselmann


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 Around the world in 15 polished if unremarkable stories as Wesselmann touches down in places as far-flung as Chile, Japan, Italy--and in American states north and south. To this first-time author's credit, the choice of diverse settings for her tales of love and loss never seems worked or flaky. Characters aren't just foreign imports doing their thing in local costume. The three best tales are ``Rosa's Vision,'' ``Core Puncher,'' and ``Ingrid, Face Down.'' The first follows a Chilean farmer's wife who recently lost her son in an accident and finds both herself and the son becoming objects of veneration when she meets a mysterious stranger on Good Friday. ``Core Puncher'' is about a woman whose young daughter died of cancer. She assuages her grief by chasing tornadoes and getting as close to their core as possible. Similarly, an overimaginative teacher in ``Ingrid...'' conquers her fear of water by snorkeling in the Caribbean; there, she discovers a ``sensation of complete peace and isolation.'' In the title piece, the daughter of an Italian family who rents out their villa to visiting foreigners grows to better understand her father when an American dad thanks her for recovering his own daughter, astray in a forest. Other tales observe with wry wit the adjustments that couples must make when they're joined in multicultural marriages--adjustments both to their new families and their new countries. The young Chinese woman in ``Life as a Dragon,'' for instance, defends herself culturally in her adopted US (``She did not understand the importance of making snowballs'') by metaphorically playing the dragon, slipping ``her tail without detection around the waist of an enemy''--and, like any good Chinese, never drawing blood. Stories that move and amuse but lack a distinctive edge.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-87074-420-8
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Southern Methodist Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1998