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by Jane Candia Coleman

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1991
ISBN: 0-8040-0949-X
Publisher: Ohio Univ.

 A first collection of 14 stories that peoples a southwestern landscape with female survivors of one kind of abuse or another. At her best, Coleman can evoke the haunted landscape and the domestic discord of a Frostian dramatic poem or the passionate bitterness of a Lawrentian short story. ``Sunflower'' concerns a female narrator and her husband Clay, who have found a weary acceptance of each other after her passionate youth and catastrophic tryst with young lover Miguel (``I never felt I could ask him [Clay] where the joy went...''). Likewise, in ``The Voices of Doves,'' the narrator, a bereaved mother who lost her infant--one of many children--when her illiterate helper oiled the baby accidentally with carbolic acid, reaches a reconciliation with the girl after a lonely recognition of a kind of fate that is bound up in the land: ``There is a violence in this soil, in the people who labor on it.'' ``Mesa Country,'' on the other hand, is sparse and Lawrentian: ``We live in tumult. Everyone.'' Other stories are more typically feminist and lyrical in their intent and execution: ``The Paseo'' lovingly evokes in ``a silent marketplace'' a promenade of women ``wrapped around their pearls'' and a male narrator who wants to paint one of the young beauties, but whose downfall involves both the local culture and his own unacknowledged desires. In ``The Ugliest Woman in the World,'' the narrator runs off with wild macho man Buck, only to come to her senses, faced with his selfishness, and leave him. A woman in ``Acts of Mercy'' rides off on a horse to help a neighbor faced with wild dogs--the men here are absent and finally unnecessary. Coleman's stories--some published in such journals as South Dakota Review and Puerto Del Sol--evoke a harsh natural and man- dominated world where women sometimes become strong through their suffering.