LIFE IN THE AIR OCEAN by Sylvia Foley

LIFE IN THE AIR OCEAN

Stories
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A debut collection of nine interlocked stories chronicling an unhappy family’s years abroad and at home. The Mowrys are restless types at heart, the kind of people who manage to settle down but never really feel at home and are probably happiest on the road. Daniel Mowry is a refrigeration engineer, an Army vet who wanted to be a pilot but was held back by poor eyesight. He and his wife Iris live for some years in South America while Daniel works with the overseas division of General Electric. Eventually, though, they return to the States and settle in Carville, Tennessee. Of their two daughters, Ruth is a sickly baby who grows up withdrawn and neurotic, while her sister Monica marries young and adjusts to normal life better than the rest of the Mowrys. Most of the stories here are episodes in the family history, describing things as various as Ruth’s nervous breakdown (—A History of Sex—), Iris’s realization of her husband’s infidelity (—The State of the Union—), a Caribbean vacation (—Off Grenada—), and the general malaise that Daniel (—Cave Fish—) and Iris (—Life in the Air Ocean—) seem to have labored under for the whole of their marriage. As family portraits go, this one is grim but not particularly vivid, and although Foley’s descriptive powers (—The habits that came to Ruth were those of quickness, and falling. She understood plain things, eggs and rectangles and rhymes—) are keen, she has small use for them here, where the unremitting sadness of the characters keeps them withdrawn, passive, and largely inarticulate. Decently done but unremarkable: tales of essentially decent people who never amount to much either in life or on the page. Foley’s talents may need a more ambitious approach.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-40063-X
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1998