At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom: Stories

Amy Hempel, Author
Amy Hempel, Author Alfred A. Knopf $17.95 (137p) ISBN 978-0-394-57174-4
Reviewed on: 03/01/1990
Release date: 03/01/1990
Here the very talented Hempel works in a hard-bitten, often mannered mode with material made familiar in her first book, Reasons to Live . The stories in her new collection follow people through crises and emergencies, from traffic accidents to mastectomies, as they take risks, waiting ``for the moment that would snap me out of my seeming life'' yet frequently ``cut off from meaning and completion'' in the end. A housewife in ``Under No Moon'' is mysteriously bent on seeing a comet, but in a minor comedy of errors fails to do so. The earnest and foolish young mother in ``The Center'' attempts to sponsor a destitute child, all the while behaving with the self-serving zeal of a super-yuppie consumer. In ``The Harvest,'' one of the strongest stories, a narrator reconstructs, then deconstructs, the events leading up to and following a motorcycle injury that leaves a lasting psychological wound. Mordant and unsentimental, Hempel works with a sharp wit that sometimes shaves away too ruthlessly at characters, limiting the depth of her sympathy--and ours. (Mar.)
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