SUICIDE'S GIRLFRIEND: A Novella and Short Stories

Elizabeth Evans, Author
Elizabeth Evans, Author . HarperCollins/ Perennial $12.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-06-095467-3
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Nine edgy stories and the sweetly languid title novella, featuring angst-ridden Midwestern kids and mixed-up adults, make up Evans's impressive latest work. In the strongest story, "Ransom," teenage Marie cares for five younger siblings including a baby, Krystal, who is just the same age as Marie's own child—who was given up for adoption by her sodden father, under pressure from her vindictive stepmother. Fleeing the latest blowup at their house with the children, Marie prays for "forgiveness and forbearance," Christian words she hardly understands, while the passel stuff themselves with a diner breakfast they can't pay for, and Marie contemplates running away with the baby and a trucker. Many of Evans's characters are captured at a turning point, such as the college student Todd in "A New Life," whose reluctance to stop at a car accident on a snowy road—and his eventual return to aid the victim—drag him into a sour recognition of adulthood. "Thieves" delineates the awkward, disastrous mating ritual of teenagers: thoughtful 14-year-old Clare and her older anorexic sister suffer (and submit to) the gross indignities of lecherous young men. Similarly, in the closing novella, Evans succinctly portrays the compromises women make for the men they love. Painter Candace Cleeve is married to Carson, an older professor of geology in Tucson who successfully wooed Candace and left his wife and kids back in Iowa. The tension implicit in this rotten history reveals itself following the news of a student's suicide, when Carson is away visiting his former home and Candace's pet cockatiel escapes. Careful storytelling and artfully disjointed prose distinguish these quiet, deceptively simple fictions. (Aug. 9)

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