SURVIVAL RATES by Mary Clyde

SURVIVAL RATES

Stories
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Decently done but unremarkable debut collection, the recipient of this year’s Flannery O—Connor Award for Short Fiction. Most of the characters here—many of them Mormons, almost all living in the American Southwest—are either sick or connected intimately with sickness or tragedy. How they face the distress at hand becomes a measure of their character. Cecil, the nose surgeon of “Howard Johnson’s House,” has to carry on with his daily routine of facial reconstructions even as his mother Edna lies dying, beyond his assistance. Anna and Nicole, the two teenaged cancer patients of “Krista Had a Treble Clef Rose,” carry on with all the normal occupations of adolescence—crushes on boys, preparations for dances, fantasies about their futures—from the oncology ward of the hospital where they—ve met. “A Good Paved Road” describes a religious dilemma: a high school girl tries to convert her boyfriend to the Mormon Church she grew up in, then loses her faith when she fails. And in “Victor’s Funeral Urn,” a recently divorced wife who’s contemplating a reunion with her ex-husband happens upon an urn containing what appear to be human ashes on the side of a road—and then tries to locate the owner. “Jumping” finds a woman still haunted by a skiing accident 33 years after the fact. The best of the lot is the title story, describing the dual traumas of a husband being treated for thyroid cancer and of the wife whose exhaustion over his disease prompts her to leave him. Clyde knows her world well and manages to offer a fair representation of it, but there’s a lack of depth to her sketches that make them seen like just that—quick studies.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8203-2049-8
Page count: 166pp
Publisher: Univ. of Georgia
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999