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by Judith Kitchen

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 1-55597-368-X
Publisher: Graywolf

A rich and compelling rip-off of Joyce’s Ulysses, in which the June day in the life of Molly Bluhm is recorded in all its ambivalent splendor.

Some adjustments have been made, of course. Leopold has become Leo; Dublin, Ireland has become Dublin, Ohio, the year 1999; and Molly and Leo now live in an old farmhouse so overtaken by suburban sprawl that their road has been renamed Larch Lane. These wry twists are but part of the story here, however; the day begins with Molly wondering whether Leo will remember that it’s their 13th anniversary. After he gears up for his busy day and departs, destined to march in sync with the happenings of Bloomsday, Molly wavers over whether to tell him or not, eat out or in. Then the real world returns to her as she shops for dinner. She agrees to sing again in the musical put on by the local theater company, whose director, Ted, had kindled a flame for more than music in her when they’d last worked together years ago. With this decision she steps out of the shell she’d created eight years before, when her only son with Leo had died of cancer. But her return isn’t to be that simple. A pregnant neighbor goes into labor and Molly is pressed into emergency child-minding duty. Ted calls on hearing her news, and they arrange to meet later that day, both of them remembering the spark of their previous acquaintance. But a fatal accident and traffic jam on the highway keep them apart, and Molly receives a vivid reminder of her loss. Despite her best efforts to get together with Leo, they fail to connect, and their anniversary turns into a wholly other kind of celebration.

It takes chutzpah to attempt a story like this, but in this case, poet and essayist Kitchen (Distance and Direction, 2001, etc.) succeeds wonderfully.