First, Body

Melanie Rae Thon, Author
Melanie Rae Thon, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-395-78588-1
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-0-8050-5540-5
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Thon (Iona Moon), who made the final cut of Granta's list of the Best Young American Novelists, peoples the seven incandescent stories in her new collection with characters who have nothing more to lose. They are numbly hanging on to life, absorbed by the ache of memories and regrets. Whether they live in Seattle, rural Montana, Boston or Florida, most of them are on the precipice of despair, with no possessions except their bodies, which they destroy with alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. In ""Nobody's Daughters,"" a starved, cold, homeless 14-year-old black girl named Nadine listens to the voice of her dead sister, who both guides her and tempts her to steal. Wearing her victims' clothes enables Nadine to imagine herself into their lives for a while, to try to find the love her mother has withheld. ER worker Sid Elliot, the protagonist of the title story, learned about death in Vietnam; lonely, alcoholic but determined to redeem his dignity, he makes a bad decision and becomes trapped beneath the body of a 326-pound woman in the hospital morgue. Others here also make bad choices and regret them immediately and eternally, but ultimately bad choices are the only ones open to them. The body is a prison for these characters, who long to burst free into new physical entities with different opportunities, different parents, different lovers. Their corporal reality is ironic because they feel faceless, invisible, hollow--forever denied the reviving touch of love. Thon has a dark, fierce imagination expressed in a torrential sweep of words. If cumulatively these tales present a near-surfeit of intense, fevered interior monologues that crest in high-pitched hallucinatory scenes, if the quotient of pervasive angst becomes a bit overpowering, the stories nonetheless leave an indelible impression of heartbreaking truth. Author tour. (Jan.)
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