THE DROWNED LIFE by Jeffrey Ford


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Sixteen stories ranging from the wildly surreal to the commonplace and poignant, from Ford (The Girl in the Glass, 2005, etc.).

In “The Drowned Life,” the opening story, a financially beset husband and father finally chooses to go under—literally. His life having ended “not with a bang but a bubble,” he finds himself the newest citizen of a weird subterranean world in which grocery stores and houses float by, and the indigenous population, in various stages of decomposition, goes about its waterlogged business as if in some kind of sunken village of the damned. “In the House of Four Seasons” is like a trip through Alice’s looking glass—complete with bizarre confrontations and logic turned on its head—conducted by a seemingly sensible guide who is, in fact, mad as a hatter. Ford shifts the mood drastically for “Present from the Past,” a sharply observed, fully empathic story of a family coping with the pain, anger and long-smoldering resentments that can attend a death watch. “The Scribble Mind” will leave readers puzzled and perhaps a bit unnerved by its story about a strange woman with a strange obsession. Like Ford’s imagination, his sense of humor never sleeps; it’s also on the strange side. In “The Dreaming Wind,” for example, a parrot swaps heads with a child’s doll: “The bird still spoke but prefaced every screeching utterance with a breathy, mechanical rendition of the word ‘Mama.’ ”

Impressive eclecticism, enhanced by the pleasures of quietly quirky prose.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-143506-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2008


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