BODIES AT SEA by Erin McGraw


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A first collection of 11 stories, most published originally in quarterlies such as The Georgia Review, Crazyhorse, and The Kenyon Review: a series of portraits of young women, mainly, all suffering from a loss of some sort. The better pieces are quiet and realistic; the others either veer toward fable--but don't quite make it--or get cutesy and mannered. ""Accepted Wisdom"" is a moving portrait of a man and his daughter who are deserted by the man's wife. They make do for years, despite a strike and the humiliations of poverty, but a haunting close makes clear the price paid by the young woman in terms of lost life. In the affecting ""Life Drawing,"" a young artist who ""had never had close contact with a pregnant woman before"" takes in her dead brother's fianc‚ and is forced, through a kind of developing symbiosis, to finally face her own grief. ""Until It Comes Clear""--about a narrator who takes her overprotected, wheelchair-bound sister on a journey through the countryside to find love--eventually suffers from a little cutesiness. Elsewhere, McGraw's inexperience or cleverness shows through: ""Testimonial""--with a narrator whose mother has cancer and whose friends are committing suicide or otherwise dying--hovers between fable and realism and in the end turns a little arch; ""Finding Sally"" is a silly pastiche in which a woman and her friends look for a beautiful damaged waif who is under the protection of her mother; and the title story--which recounts the visit of a young widow to a married friend whose wife has changed for the worse--is overdone, as is ""The Punch-Up Man,"" about a father who's all vaudeville and Hollywood pretension. One of the yearly Illinois Short Fiction titles, this one--despite several noteworthy pieces--tends to short-sell its virtues.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1989
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois Press