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 A first collection of nine stories, mostly about families: a good dose of Ann Beattie minimalism with a Jewish slant and with some witty Lorrie Moore urban angst thrown in for good measure. The title story concerns the relationship between the narrator and her mother-in-law, Frances, after Jeffrey, the husband and son respectively, commits suicide. The narrator, unhappy with the sudden intimacy forced upon her, remembers her life with Jeffreyhe was in medical school before being seized with 60's wanderlustand finally comes to understand that Frances, who believes that a mother ``has no business outliving her son,'' is suffering from cancer. Likewise, in the intriguing ``Child Abuse,'' the narrator, Mary, who ``prefers life in its purest stateunharmed by the spoken word, which are mostly just lies,'' writes in the second person to her sister Ronnie, who was favored by their father with a wardrobe of dresses in return for certain favors. Mary searches for her sister in a small town, steals many of her dresses, and meets a dentistin a piece that takes on an eerie Faulknerian gothic texture. And ``Out of the Body Travel'' achieves its success by placing the narrator in a broken family and juxtaposing her visits to her father's Greenwich Village pad with her angst-ridden life with her mother. Meanwhile, ``Double Lives'' is smooth but otherwise standard-issue minimalism about a fading marriage; ``A Tough Life,'' nicely modulated, is about drug-addicted Uncle Ruben, who uses the young narrator to score drugs; and ``Passover'' is a touching mother-daughter story set in Florida. ``Double Lives'' originally appeared in The Atlantic, a few others in TriQuarterly, MSS., and Crazy Horse. At its best, a graceful debutwith a quirky voice and a couple of offbeat perspectives.

Pub Date: May 25th, 1991
ISBN: 0-916366-67-7
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: Pushcart
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1991