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Very Irish-Catholic Providence, Rhode Island, of the 1950s is the venue here for a clutch of short stories that move desultorily ahead in time until the late 60s. All more or less are focused upon a pair of sisters, April and Margery Flanaghan, and their parents: the father a man of no great good humor, happiest when his ulcer is taking revenge on him; the mother not much sunnier. Talk around the house is either gossip (always unflattering), petty demands, weary obligations to the Church, or the purest domestic stalemate. McGarry, whose first book this is, owns a childlike, run-on style (""April was eighteen and a half and away at school, St. Bernard's College in Wrentham, all girls, when Margery married an Italian and wouldhave given her father a heart attack, on top of everything else, if things hadn't changed since the old days, but they had""), which does, however, convey the parochial drear of the family. What it can't do is pick apart separate strands, clearly differentiating the sisters, for instance, or placing them in any free-standing dramatic situations. Only one scene seems to lift from the snapshot flatness: April babysits for a neighboring couple, and as soon as the couple are gone, quickly scurry in April's sister and mother, both avid and anxious snoops, opening the refrigerator, looking at the photo albums, passing judgment on the furniture. Nowhere else in the book does a tint of comedy--or behavioral oddity--arise; it's all slice-of-life, right from the dullish middle.

Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 1985
ISBN: 0801863678
Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press