THE LIFEGUARD by Mary Morris


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 Morris's third collection (Vanishing Animals, 1975; The Bus of Dreams, 1985) shows some of the flair for yarnspinning missed in her last novel, House Arrest (1996), but repetition lessens the overall impact of the ten tales here (nine previously published). Most of this volume's characters are poised on the cusp of a change, nowhere more so than in the title story, where a teenage lifeguard, accustomed to being the lord of all he surveys, has a rude awakening when he proves deficient in the first aid needed to save a toddler on the beach. But young male protagonists are an exception; much more common are married women (like Emily in ``The Snowmaker's Wife'') who learn something profound about the emptiness of their lives. Emily's husband spends his winter nights making snow at a ski resort, but when his nocturnal absences increase she begins to suspect something else; then her fear that he's stepping out with her best friend is verified at a time when she's most vulnerable. Melanie in ``Losing Track,'' Lenore in ``The Glass-Bottom Boat,'' and the unnamed cowboy's wife in ``Around the World'' all experience epiphanies when they go to the limit of what their husbands can do for them, then step beyond on their own: Melanie during an all-night vigil in Navaho land, Lenore on a Caribbean holiday when a native opens her eyes to a world she'd denied, and the cowgirl when the carnival comes along, bringing a handsome stranger to the laundromat. We don't learn what follows these personal revelations, but Morris's implication is that her characters' lives, if not completely transformed, will at least be easier to bear. Longing and change are better personified in some situations than others here, and the marital dynamic grows stale. But there are also exquisitely revealing moments, and clearly Morris hasn't lost her touch as a story writer. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-26170-5
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1997


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