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 Chase's first collection displays the same subtlety and grace that distinguish her lyrical novels (During the Reign of the Queen of Persia, 1983; The Evening Wolves, 1989) from most other fiction about domestic life. There's nothing formulaic or predictable about these 11 nuanced tales about girls growing into their sexuality, women troubled by bad marriages, and men possessed by dreams of a better life. The young narrator of ``Aunt Josie'' learns about masculine desire and feminine wile by watching her beautiful and entrancing aunt, who lives at a state farm for boys where her husband is the athletic director and her niece visits for the summer. In ``J.C. Peach,'' an adolescent girl, infatuated with a more self-possessed classmate, shares with her the bond of their first periods. Slightly older, the 16-year-old narrator of ``Elderberries and Souls'' has a wild crush on her stepuncle until his dark moodiness sends her running back to her loyal beau, a less complex fellow her own age. In ``The Harrier,'' a married woman ``in a mist of yearning'' lusts for a local artist/mechanic, a younger man much closer to nature and more at peace with himself than her insensitive husband. Divorced women overcome self-pity and guilt in encounters with people worse off than they in ``Crowing'' and ``Ghost Dance.'' In ``Black Ice,'' a wife separated from her husband reviews on the phone their history of car accidents after he's survived a dramatic one alone. Chase's men are often driven by a fear of failure and a vision of a simpler life: the grandfather/defense-analyst in ``The Whole of the World'' must prove he's a better woodsman than his sons-in-law; the manic husband in ``An Energy Crisis'' changes his grand scheme with each job transfer; and the prep-school teacher in ``Jack Pine Savage,'' having abandoned his Ph.D. for the exigencies of a family, dreams of life as a French trapper in Canada. The title story, about life in a lower-middle-class housing development, is typical of Chase's superior storytelling skills--it's so multidimensional it resists paraphrase. Once again, Chase brings extraordinary elegance and imagination to everyday realism.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-374-11539-7
Page count: 226pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1991