TRAVELING LADIES by Janice Kulyk Keefer


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Collection of 12 stories by a Canadian who has written critically of Mavis Gallant and who intimately knows English and French landscapes: a shapely group of fictions, very reminiscent of Gallant's own work, about the various passages in the lives of women who travel. Oddly enough, however, the starkest stories are the most powerful. "The Dark," in which the narrator takes a "trip to a place I've never wanted to visit," concerns her attempt to come to terms with the murder of a friend by visiting the dead woman's apartment. "Going Over the Bars" is a vivid account of the last moments of a woman's life, as often as not from the woman's point of view: "Not surrender, but loss: progressive, irreversible; absolute." In "The Lesson," a bitter widow gives English lessons in France to a 13-year-old girl and finally comes to face her own bitterness and her need for family. All of the stories deal with one sort of loss or another; the pieces that aren't stark are almost lush in detail, though place carefully echoes character. "Prodigals" is an evocative account of a young woman who returns home when her grandmother is dying: in an effective summarizing flashback image, the grandmother is preparing to leave, everything "neatly, carefully packed." In "The Gardens of the Loire," a widow who owns a hotel hosts unhappy newlyweds and her nephew; by story's end, her nephew has married the unhappy bride, who has decided to remain in France. It's a carefully modulated social comedy, as is "Accidents" (a family on sabbatical in France) and "Bella Rabinovitch/Arabella Rose" (a daughter annually visits and finds a new temporary identity with her maternal grandfather). Keefer is an accomplished writer, well published already in Canada, who should gain a larger audience (mostly Gallant fans) with this elegant volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 1990
ISBN: 688-10284-0
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
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