HAPPY OR OTHERWISE by Diana Joseph

HAPPY OR OTHERWISE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A dozen debut tales about, more often than not, surprise pregnancies and ultra-demanding father figures.

Joseph demonstrates dexterity with plotting stories, often bouncing about mid-paragraph between temporal spaces distantly removed from one another: The effect is that of the past’s immediate effect on the present, while the lesson is that old wounds never heal completely. In “Bloodlines,” a horse-raising family discovers their limitations when a horse kills brother Martin, prompting father to slaughter all the Appaloosas. A woman contemplates matters of identity in “Naming Stories” through an examination of names that we’re given, that labeled, or that are withheld from us. “Approximate to Salvation” is a young woman’s account of an adolescence spent under a horrific patriarch, a man so cruel no one can confront him. A boy’s cough (“Sick Child”) triggers a reflection, for the mother, on insecurity and family unhappiness, and the sad meander that becomes of life in the wake of spoiled dreams. “The Fifth Mrs. Hughes” tracks the pregnancy and motherhood of a woman who is repeating the pattern of parents who themselves knew nothing of marriage, and a young boy watches his mother (“Schandorsky’s Mother”) chronicle her divorce and relationship with a biker in a long poem she occasionally shows him. “Many Will Enter, Few Will Win” is a dreamy tale of a family stuck in mid-disintegration, echoing the best of Mary Robison. And “Shared and Stolen” is another dreamy meditation on family, in which the necessities of life are pilfered in an attempt to escape a stifling genealogy.

A bright talent whose vision seems to be coalescing around a single problem.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 2003
ISBN: 0-88748-369-8
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2003