Polite Society

Melanie Sumner, Author, Malanie Sumner, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $21.95 (204p) ISBN 978-0-395-68998-1
The Peace Corps has provided fertile ground for the empathic vision and sharp wit of a talented writer, as is evidenced in these elegantly written, slyly humorous short stories set in Senegal. ``The Edge of the Sky,'' about the dissatisfied wife of an American ambassador, is a powerful opener, but it is incongruent with the ensuing tales chronicling the increasingly drunken misadventures of Darren, a 25-year-old Tennessee ne'er-do-well whom the Peace Corps sends to teach at a university that has been on strike for a year. Self-destructive and myopic (literally as well as figuratively), yet endearingly tenderhearted, Darren stumbles her way through training camp and life on her own in an apartment in Dakar, with attendant affairs with Senegalese men, a trip to Mali, a Christmas visit from her parents and civil unrest. Sumner brings an exotic locale and its denizens, black and white, to life in vivid detail. The Senegalese, ``as tall as giants,'' saunter along, taking ``agile, delicate steps, like horses.'' Darren's mother's eyes were ``sea green, shadowed with an intelligence that would have been unnerving if one could stare into them longer than the second she permitted.'' This is a striking collection from a powerful new voice. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
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