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 Ten stories, all set in the small town of Cedar, Oklahoma, each titled by the year it is respectively are set in, make up Askew's debut volume. Local lore and town-consciousness bind some in the manner of ritual: the creepy misfit all the kids are afraid of; the local good-old-boy killed in Vietnam; the summer visit by a worldly cousin from California. Others are less usual: a woman shoots her long-nagging husband; an old man newly dead watches his own funeral; a pet raccoon turns feral at the moment a boy most identifies with the animal. But, together, the stories allow only a muzzy impression of Askew's tale-telling: the style-changes hinder clear view. One story is superb, though, and does give evidence of the talent the others dilute. In ``1967,'' a young Cedar girl, Lyla Mae, goes out on a date--her first--with a boy from another town. Too young to drive himself, the boy picks her up in a truck captained by his obese uncle and the uncle's girlfriend. All four drive miles, to a baseball game in the boy's hometown, a game that Lyla Mae sits through as though through purgatory: strangenesses pile onto each other with every minute, along with the terrible knowledge that you can like someone but not like his or her life. The story has physical immediacy and a sense of wonderful/terrible apprehension, and is by the far the best thing here. A middling first collection, then, with one marvelous exception.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-670-84259-1
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1992


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