PASTORALE: Stories by Susan Engberg


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Engberg's stories--which quietly work their way in and out of the little spaces in everyday, unremarkable life--always display a Jamesian emotional balance; and some are extremely pleasurable. In ""Lambs of God,"" a woman's sense of maternal responsibility (""a positive force against discomfort and disorder and sorrow"") is finely granulated, seeming to affect her entire family to the good. In ""Small Voices,"" a cast-off man meets a woman who offers a remarkable redemptiveness . . . when she willingly assists him in cleaning up his disheveled house--and his life. And in ""The Lap of Peace,"" a pregnant woman's whimsicality and diffidence is adjusted to by her young husband--offering a view of marital independence (in harmony) that's very appealing. Admittedly, Engberg's free-floating perceptiveness doesn't lend itself to strong dramatic shaping or fully satisfying climaxes: many of the stories here ultimately seem pat. But her work is firmly anchored in an equable, decent optimism; her style is simultaneously graceful and solid; and, while never riveting or unsettling, these short fictions give off a genuine, generous warmth--a rare commodity in the contemporary short-story field.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1982
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois Press