THE PAST LEADS A LIFE OF ITS OWN by Wayne Fields

THE PAST LEADS A LIFE OF ITS OWN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Fields (What the River Knows, 1990) now turns to fiction to write about the vanishing world of rural Middle America in a correspondingly old-fashioned way: In these linked stories, manhood has nothing to do with sexuality, everything to do with facing up to work, responsibility, and death. Once past the pretentious Introduction (about memory and narrative), the banal Prologue (in which boy, father, and grandfather look up at the wild geese), and the melodrama of the first story (which takes the central character, Lonnie, abruptly from childhood to his future as an unemployed man grieving for absent wife and dead child), Fields begins to express a moving vision of decent people who never seem to get the rewards of their integrity and their labor. Young Lonnie--who grows up near construction-job sites when his father is employed and on his grandparents' farm when he is not--""conceived of work leas as a thing man was condemned to do than a thing man was condemned to seek."" Lonnie glories in the natural world and profits from the wisdom of elders--the stubborn (if unorthodox) faith and communal support that keep people going--even as he observes a world full of disappointments and deaths (a man cuts off his own head with a chain saw; a long-lost relative returns home only for burial, etc.). Mixing pain and uplift, Fields's plain-spoken moral messages seem appropriate to the time and place and sneak handily past the barriers of contemporary cynicism.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Poseidon/Simon & Schuster