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and Other Tales of Modern Family

by Kathryn Trueblood

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-57962-006-X
Publisher: Permanent Press

A novella and five stories by a stylist who takes to a fare- thee-well Virginia Woolf's idea that women deserve their own sort of sentence and subject matter—those that don't march to a male rhythm—and their own moody, subliminal subject matter. In the surreal expressionism of Trueblood's debut collection, sense does indeed go up into vapor, sometimes. But this is the kind of crosswired writing that at the very least leads to somewhere new and never rolls dully down the groove of good sensible storytelling in little sermonizing sentences. The standout is the 100-page title piece, whose notably clearer style puts to shame the remaining lesser stories, which morph awkwardly like a batch of polliwogs into would-be frog princes. Jessie, 20 and pregnant, finds that her lesbian mother has been fibbing to her for all of her life: Her father didn't die in battle before Jessie was born. Instead, she's the product of artificial insemination by a med student sperm-donor who received the grand sum of 40 dollars for his bodily fluid. Jessie quickly spots her father in a class yearbook, tracks him down, breaks into his summer cabin, and lives there for a week on her own. Then she phones him, without revealing her identity, and gets an appointment to have her pregnancy checked over. Meanwhile, Nigel, the 40-year-old who got Jessie with child and then split, comes to visit her mom at the motel she manages and tries to straighten things out—in a scene that erupts with wisdom about who is responsible for what in a pregnancy. The climax is the snappish dialogue visited by Jessie upon her surprised biological father. As for the shorter stories, they show family life geysering in images summoned from the collective unconscious. Synaesthetic prose, all roses crushed with daisies, and not for the fainthearted.