THE LONG WHITE by Sharon Dilworth


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Nine mostly solid stories--by this year's winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award--introduce a young writer with an uncommon sense of place. Her stories set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula stylistically equal their subject--stark, raw prose captures the somewhat desperate lives of the Finns and Indians who people the grim landscape, and who reenact decades of prejudice. The least impressive pieces here include a number of workmanlike tales: the gimmicky ""Lip Service RÉsumÉ,"" arranged by the heading of the rÉsumÉ of its protagonist; and ""Independence Day,"" which takes off from the double meaning of its title--on July 4th, a young widow takes her first steps to overcome her dependence on her well-nurtured fear. Less convincing by far is the incongruous ""Miles from Coconut Grove,"" the story of an unambitious, displaced fellow who loafs away his days in the Florida sun. ""Lunch at Archibald's"" chronicles the madness of a woman spurned, a maniacal divorcee who runs into her ex's new wife in a restaurant, and elicits a surprising bit of familial loyalty from her uptight sister. Wind-whipped and slogging through the snow, the characters in Dilworth's finest stories confront the physical onslaught of life near the ""white dead water"" of the Great Lakes. In ""Winter Mines,"" a high-school teacher mourns her childhood friend who commits suicide one harsh winter by swallowing Drano. The two-time winner of a wine-chugging contest in ""Mad Dog Queen"" hates everything about her small-town past, except this rather uncivilized event that draws her back each year. A more ominous note is struck in ""The Seeney Stretch,"" the narrative of an adulterous wife, whose teen-aged lover is killed by her husband in what police accept as a hunting accident. The most poetic and affecting of the Michigan stories is the title piece: a long lament by a teen-aged girl whose hometown, long known for a murder committed 20 years ago, threatens to become better known for her father's strange disappearance. Some apprentice work, then, along with much that's mature storytelling.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1988
Publisher: Univ. of Iowa Press