PRIVATE PROPERTY: Stories by Debts 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
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Turtle Bay/Random House