THE CHRISTMAS WIFE by Helen Norris

THE CHRISTMAS WIFE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Seven stories that borrow a very great deal in tone and method from the dusty schoolroom shelves of the Museum of the American Short Story. A man's wife gets off a train to buy grapes from a vendor on the platform, then disappears entirely and forever, as if into a mysterious and faintly surreal past (""Starwood""). A 76-year-old woman is given her illegitimate 4-year-old great-grandson to raise; but he remains mute, locked within himself (""The Love Child""). An 11-year-old girl, independent and feisty, tries to help her amnesiac grandfather recapture a lost and mysteriously vague moment of wartime horror in his past (""The Singing Well""). A town cripple and half-wit falls in love with a second-grade teacher and enters her house repeatedly (when she's at work) to repair odds and ends and to adore her beautiful and enchanted (to him) possessions (""Money Man""). A widowed architect--in perhaps the most originally rendered of these stories--""rents"" a woman to share Christmas with, only to discover, in the end, that she is the downtrodden wife of the seedy and debt-ridden rental agent (""The Christmas Wife""). With its many moments of verbal clarity and closely observed detail, the volume trudges, nevertheless, under its burden of what are by now old sighs, worn concepts, and prosaic rhythms: ""You get older and the world is changing and you hardly know yourself except for people who have always known you and you can see it in their faces who you are. Then you know,"" says the woman in ""The Love Child."" Stories, for all their ambition and steadfast earnestness, that come largely from the literary mausoleum. Better to read the originals, where these voices first occurred and were, then, fresh: Anderson, Hemingway, Porter, O'Connor, Welty.

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1985
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois Press