Three Novellas
Email this review


In his first fiction in nearly 30 years, Cabot (The Joshua Tree, 1970) offers an exemplary trio of novellas, each occupied with the theme of reconciliation to oneself and one’s losses, presented in often stunning prose. Each tale is told from multiple perspectives——generally, those of several male members of a single family’spanning decades and, in the first novella, —Breath of the Earth,— centuries. —Breath— chronicles a Mediterranean village’s fortunes, conflicts, and sufferings. Cabot’s rendering of places, though they are often too stylized to reveal their real-world basis, is marvelous: The olive trees, parched dirt, and wine, however underspecified (is that Mediterranean land really Italy?), become hypnotically real as a history of fierce pirates, wayward sons, and, the most powerful of all malefactors, modernization, unfolds. Cabot’s scale and tone are intimate and sometimes impressionistic, but the pleasure of the volume is less in what happens—often events that are hard to place or even identify—than in the way the tales are told. Cabot’s mode throughout is elegiac: His narrators are woeful though not bitter. In —A Rat in the Boardroom,— a son learns and finally leads the business his father established. By selecting discontinuous scenes from different stages of each man’s life, Cabot persuasively depicts the son’s inability to comprehend his father’s view of the world—and the ways each man’s values corrode the other’s idea of what makes life worthwhile—as intractable. The final tale, —Touch of Dust,— completes the progression from village through family with its story of the solitary artist who attempts to wrestle his past into meaning and who emerges with an inspiring conviction about the love he has known. For all its extraordinary lack of specificity, Cabot’s incantatory prose memorably captures the dramatic tragedy of living, and the precious, endangered whimper of redemption.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1999
ISBN: 0-929701-60-7
Page count: 264pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999