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A slim first collection of seven stories (some originally published in Great River Review, Northeast Magazine, and Clockwatch Review) that transforms suburban angst into art: ordinary situations are treated delicately enough to make us forget the numerous writers who have worked over such material. Four stories here are especially noteworthy: ""Fireflies"" is about a lawyer who asks his ex-wife to accompany him to his reunion because ""he needed a wife on his arm to complete the portrait."" At the reunion, the wife comes to understand, through meeting a girl with MS whom her husband once loved, that she had never known him. ""Let Me Call You Sweetheart"" dramatizes ""the intricate emotional network"" of a marriage and its breakup through the eyes of a son, a Ph.D. candidate whose mother decides to leave his father after decades. Again, the original slant saves the story from derivativeness. In ""Under the Carapace,"" a father leaves a family in 1974 and the narrator, who was 14 at the time, tells of a turtle that became ""the guardian of our newfound independence."" The political allusions to Watergate are a little forced, but the story, even so, gives good weight. In ""Learning to Drive,"" a man whose leg has been amputated (cancer) recovers in the face of a dire prognosis (more cancer has been found): in the epiphany, he learns to drive with one leg. Of the rest, ""Parachuting"" is about a man, 65, who--after 20 years--comes to see the value of his life ""in the surface of things. . .""; the title piece is a series of sketches by the ""neighborhood historian""; and ""Design"" juxtaposes to good effect a drunken suburbanite on the loose and a beached whale. A strong debut, which more often than not takes a familiar suburban scenario and makes clear how mysterious and frightening ""everydayness"" can be.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
Publisher: New Rivers--dist. by Talman (150 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011)