SHADOW BANDS by Jeanne Schinto


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A first collection of 12 elegant stories that chronicles the archetypal passage from innocence to experience, most often from the viewpoint of adolescents or the very old. Schinto's stories render a complex impression of life as a mysterious but ultimately disappointing place of rude awakenings. The most successful pieces dramatize initiations. In the title story, Mira, inhabiting a row house after its gentrification, befriends a battered child who lives next door, only to discover painfully that she underestimates his attachment to his low-rent world. In ""Caddie's Day,"" a young girl cutting across a golf course is ""molested"" by caddies and then bought off with a bottle of orange pop--an instance of terror and violence is transformed into ordinary experience. ""From a Juror's Notebook"" similarly chronicles the mood shifts of a juror at a rape trial; after she finally finds the defendant guilty, she has a sandwich. Other stories (""The Friendships of Girls Unpopular Together,"" ""The Ring: Or, A Girl Confesses,"" ""A Keepsake,"" and ""Before Sewing One Must Cut"") effectively evoke an adolescent world of sexual tension, fascinated envy and religious demystification (Roman Catholic), but tend to sacrifice plot to atmosphere and summarizing images. As is often the case in contemporary short fiction, many of Schinto's people have lives that happen to them willy-nilly, an accumulation of experiences that are largely beyond their control. For instance, in ""The Disappearance,"" the most sustained story, a retired gardener discovers shortly before his death that his immigrant father diasppeared because the Communists sent him back to Italy to further a political scheme--the story is complex enough to suggest that Schinto may have an interesting novel in store. A promising debut.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1988
Publisher: Ontario Review--dist. by Braziller