PRIVATE PROPERTY by Debra Jo Immergut


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 A debut collection of ten stories, mostly about women who are lonely or bereft (though the best is about a man who hits his wife): first-person narratives that too often pull their punches and too much resemble, in mood or tone, other pieces by more accomplished writers (Bobbie Ann Mason, Alice Munro, et al.). ``Tension,'' told from the point of view of a husband who one day loses control and pops his wife, is good on male midlife violence crisis-mentality. The conclusion is a bit forced but it works: The wife agrees to remain with the husband in return for having her ``eyes and chin done, my breasts lifted, and a tummy tuck.'' Later, pulling the surgical wrappings from her face, the husband is reconciled to his wife when he sees the ``mangled remnants of the face I've known best.'' Of the rest: ``The Number of My Heart'' is a long, rambling, if occasionally affecting, tale about a female Park Service Ranger and her affair with a co-worker whose wife is dying. ``The Skirt,'' about an ``assistant grants assessor in the Department of Education,'' is effectively haunted by the narrator's mother's death, and, likewise, in ``Frozen Niagara,'' the narrator is haunted by her brother's suicide. In ``River Road,'' yet another depressed young woman, who's tried ``Class 2 painkillers--Dilaudid, Percodan, Demerol'' and New York, returns home to be seduced by her doctor-father's friend, a man who sells drugs to physicians. Like others here, this one lyrically evokes a place and a mood at times, only to pull up short and let the big one get away. Immergut, even at her most successful, illuminates landscapes that have been seen already: her situations and characters tend to be more heartfelt than moving.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-394-58624-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1992