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by Kim Edwards

Pub Date: March 24th, 1997
ISBN: 0-393-04026-7
Publisher: Norton

 Edwards debuts with 11 stories, set all over the globe, that share little beyond her clean, fluent style--a clarity somewhat dissipated by heavy dramatic ironies and polemic. In the most aggressive piece, ``The Story of My Life,'' the daughter of a prominent anti-abortion protestor discovers her mother to be a hypocrite and opportunist. Equally deadening in its topicality, ``The Invitation'' shows little sympathy for the Englishwoman who has lived in the Third World for 30 years, during which she learned almost nothing about the native culture. Other stories set in Asia prove relatively more subtle: In ``Sky Juice,'' a village girl in Malaysia escapes prostitution, with a friend's help, by becoming a mail-order bride; in ``Gold,'' a rubber-plant worker form a small village becomes obsessed with digging for gold, but later substitutes spiritual riches for his worldly desires; in ``Bat Stories,'' a married Western agricultural planner will go to any length to save his funding, including an affair with the program evaluator; and in ``The Great Chain of Being,'' a Third World leader pretends that fate, not his will, confines his daughter to home; she of course eventually bends history to her will in a major way. Such reversals are commonplace in Edwards's right-minded fictions, especially in the title piece about backwoods religious revivals and a fire-eater whose tricks are used against him. A trapeze artist tests her husband's love rather dramatically in ``Balance,'' much like the 19-year-old girl in ``The Way It Felt To Be Falling,'' who conquers her fears by sky- diving. The best story, ``Spring, Mountain, Sea,'' suggests that it's never too late for a husband to learn something profound about his seemingly inscrutable wife. Utterly out of place, if not simply an exercise, is a story in the voice of Madame Curie's admiring housekeeper. A talented writer still in search of subjects worthy of her craft.