LET ME BE THE ONE: Stories by Elisabeth Harvor


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Better known in her native Canada, Harvor collects eight well-written stories, all of which turn on her evocative title--the plea of an anxious woman, full of longing and short on self-esteem. Harvor's women, almost all divorced and middle-aged, dwell in the purgatory of wanting both passionate companions and self-contained solitude. They live largely in their imaginations: The poet of ""Love Begins with Pity,"" a divorced mom, fearing those ""serial killers"" known as ""time and despair""--moons for a young man in her evening class. Equally hyper-self-aware is the divorced mother of ""How Will I Know You?,"" who, unable to sleep after a potential affair fizzles, seeks a psychic herbalist around whom she constructs a wild scenario. Two stories (""There Goes the Groom"" and ""Freakish Vine that I Am"") concern a daydreaming, disorganized woman who, in the first, divorces her husband and boldly rejects alimony; and in the second, notices the sense of unhappiness of her now-remarried ex and worries what she'll do after her children have fled the nest. Yet two more divorcâes grapple with middle age in ""Mad Maze Made by God"" and ""Two Women: The Interviews"": One marries a man widowed by suicide, and tempers her sexual desire with her hope for her son's ""safe passage through all of life""; the other ponders the ironies of her divorce soon after discovering mutual orgasm with her husband. Younger women, as worried and self-concerned as the rest, are the focus of splendid pieces: A nursing student can't abide the obvious favoritism her mother shows her much prettier sister and her roommate, who actually bears a checkered sexual past (""Invisible Target""); and a woman in analysis broods on her adolescent incest with her brother, and on her fears concerning her distant parents (""Through the Fields of Tall Grasses""). Touching, and more sharp than clever, these fine stories mock their eerie ironies and invite us to share their powerfully rendered concerns.

Pub Date: April 29th, 1997
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: HarperCollinsWorld