WINTER ROADS, SUMMER FIELDS by Marjorie Dorner

WINTER ROADS, SUMMER FIELDS

Stories
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Twelve literary tales by mystery-writer Dorner (Freeze Frame, 1990, etc.) covering some 50 years in the history of a family farming community in Wisconsin--a first collection that, at its best, is a haunting evocation of mortality and its contingencies. In the first story--``Love's Mansion,'' set in 1935--Celie lives through a repressed girlhood (her mother binds her breasts) and comes to a sense of how the world is when she helps a local boy birth a calf. Here, Dorner delicately weaves together naturalistic elements and internal reverie. A later story--``Tree House,'' set in 1990--has the same Celie, now old and alone but still independent in her ``bright, almost outlandish clothes.'' She watches Jim Mueller, who has turned his farm over to his son, build a tree house, ostensibly for his grandchildren, and finally gives him her philosophy of life (``The secret is not to be afraid''). In other pieces, such as ``Herbert (1948),'' Dorner uses her excellent ear to capture the cumulative effect of small unintended cruelties among men on a threshing crew. In ``Burying Pal (1959),'' a man buries a dead horse and remembers the death of his son from measles; in ``Lee Ann's Little Killing (1971),'' a seven-year-old girl comes to an intimation of the fragility of love when she accidentally knocks out her father with a hammer. And so forth: the stories touch upon ordinary occasions in the life of a community and its values. The best of the later pieces, naturally enough, deal with grief and loss--in ``Mass for the Dead,'' a son loses his mother; in ``Changeling,'' a mother sees her ``beautiful baby'' turn into a ``big, ugly, mean-eyed boy''; and in the ``Before the Forgetting,'' set in present time, an old woman with Alzheimer's goes in and out of memory and awareness. Dorner writes without sentimentality of a vanishing world. Some of these originally appeared in literary magazines such as Great River Review.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-915943-86-7
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: Milkweed
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1991




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