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DISCOVERING EVE by Jane Candia Coleman


Short Stories

by Jane Candia Coleman

Pub Date: May 15th, 1993
ISBN: 0-8040-0964-3
Publisher: Ohio Univ.

Coleman's second collection (after Stories from Mesa Country, 1991): mostly delicate explorations of the passage of adolescents into adulthood and of married women into the complexities of adultery or disenchantment. In the first section here, ``The Balducci Garden,'' the narrator of the title story comes of age sexually by voyeuristically observing the Balducci brothers who live next door to her grandmother. The central metaphor is an apt one—the narrator breaks stones apart to find ``the hidden beauty'' of their crystalline centers. This sort of metaphor-cum-sketch is the dominant pattern here—Coleman relies on her poetic prose to carry readers instead of fully developing her plots—and, usually, it works. In the second section, ``The Age of Insects,'' the title story is about a woman who, along with her husband, baby, and shallow mother-in-law, comes upon a beached whale and learns of the callousness of humans. In ``The Lover of Swamps,'' a poet—married to a naturalist but in love with someone else—develops ``an affinity with the swamp.'' In ``Glasnost,'' a woman of 40 comes to see how she's ``lived more than half [her] life as a robot.'' The third section, ``Wives and Lovers,'' begins with the delicate story of a sculptor who falls in love with a woman in a house where he's a temporary guest and who learns from her how to see. In ``Compromising Alice,'' Alice, after 15 years of marriage to jerk George, divorces him to consider whether or not to marry thoughtful Henry. And ``La Signora Julia'' is about a famous physicist's student who develops a crush on the man's wife and meditates on how incompatible people manage to stay together before learning, later, that the man's wife has left him. Coleman, at best, displays the easy poetic grace of an Alice Munro. Even when sketchy, her lyricism usually saves the day.