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 Nineteen grim new stories by female Irish writers, inspired by the recent referendum that amended the Irish constitution to legalize divorce. When Phyllis, one of many downtrodden characters here, laments that ``Life didn't quite turn out as we thought it would,'' she speaks for nearly everyone else who shows up in these pages. The story in which she appears, ``Taximen Are Invisible,'' by Maeve Binchy, features a Dublin cabdriver with a front-row seat to a tawdry drama involving a family that's broken when the husband takes up with a younger woman--who then has his child and loses her spark, prompting him to reconcile with his long-suffering spouse. The husband with his young thing on the side proves to be a popular theme, figuring in at least seven other stories, although the perspective changes from that of the ``other'' woman to that of a daughter or next-door neighbor, allowing the wife to have her fling when the tables are turned. But not all is about stepping out: Mary Dorcey's haunting ``The Orphan'' recounts a mother's childhood with the man she called her father, who took her from an orphanage and pimped for her for years outside his pub, until she ran away to London for an abortion. Another moving tale is Mary Leland's ``Commencements,'' the reverie of a single mother attending her daughter's graduation; her chance meeting with two people from her distant past stirs painful memories. Unfortunately, though, a certain sameness guides most of what's here. A somber tone is all but constant, as in ``Clods,'' by Mary Morrissy, about a lonely woman who spends one night with her ex, now remarried and living in America, when he returns for his mother's funeral. Some nice individual efforts mixed in with the monotony. (Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-32399-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1998