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 Stories from newcomer Parvin give a feel for the backwoods life of mountain and forest in far northern California, but his characters' credibility is often less compelling than the wild places where they live. The title story opens with a ring of the familiar (and through ambitiousness becomes symbol-crowded) as an erstwhile lumberjack, now one-armed and a hermit, trains a 16-year-old boy to pitch for the big leagues, using rocks for balls and a tree for home plate. Parvin's best, its characters the most genuine and unconventionalized, is ``Darkness Runs,'' about a college-educated young man with some Wintu blood (from his full-blooded grandmother) who tries against odds to keep a health- and social-services center open and running in the poverty-stricken backcountry. In spite of flashes of descriptive wizardry, though, other pieces are inhabited increasingly by ready-made characters who'd be at home in television drama. In ``Smoke,'' another backwoods hermit and half- unbalanced Vietnam vet continues growing marijuana because he can't think what else to do; while in ``Ice the Color of Sky,'' possibly the most interesting of the remaining stories, sibling rivalry between two brothers ends only with the death of one--after a 26- year separation. A gay game warden loves another man for years but has to stay closeted (``Trapline''), while in ``May,'' a retarded woman ekes out a life as a hard laborer and at last, physically beaten by a man one time too many, becomes a killer. ``It's Me Again,'' however (a second marriage falls apart almost immediately), and ``Fish Story'' (an ex-white-collar criminal returns to nature with his lover) are stories desperate for real psychology in their central characters, a lack slightly less true of ``The Ames Coil,'' a story colorful in setting about a woman who abandons her retarded child. Stories, in all, waiting to become as real in their people as they are in their setting.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8118-1435-1
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Chronicle
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1996