A sixth collection from Cooper (The Wake of the Wind, 1998, etc.), brimming over with all her usual upbeat insights, humor, and down-home takes on life and living: a mix that has just enough vinegar to avoid seeming too saccharine or facile.
The four stories here all explore, some more effectively than others, the theme of the inescapable indivisibility of the past and the future in people’s lives, futures that, Cooper notes, are built like houses, “a brick or plank a day.” In the first and least successful piece, “A Shooting Star”—the tone is more preachy, the moral more pointed—a young woman, now married to her high school sweetheart and leading a virtuous life, tells how the free and easy ways with men of her beautiful and wayward friend Lorene, whom she’s known and often envied since childhood, had gruesome repercussions. The “A Fillet of Soul” is a love story with a twist, as Luella, a lonely young woman abandoned by her ne’er do well suitor in a strange city without money, is advised to sell her favors in order to pay her debts—a fate she manages to escape when she at last finds true romance. Meanwhile, Vinnie, an overworked and financially struggling single mother in “The Eagle Flies” (the best story here), watches an eagle with a wounded wing fly regularly over her house, and somehow finds the courage to stand up to her grasping, selfish children and fall in love again. And in “The Lost and the Found,” an old woman, Mrs. Everly, observing that the biggest fools are the ones who think they’re having fun making fools of everyone else, recalls a young woman by the name of Irene who turned the tables on her lover Cool, a sweet-talker who had no intention of settling down—yet.
Clear-eyed takes on women’s lives that offer some redeeming balm.