Islands, the Universe, Home

Gretel Ehrlich, Author
Gretel Ehrlich, Author Viking Books $19.95 (20p) ISBN 978-0-670-82161-7
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-14-010907-8
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Loss and recovery, isolation and connectedness are themes running through this powerful, idiosyncratic collection of naturalisticper web essays. Observing nature's rule over her Wyoming farm, Ehrlich ( The Solace of Open Spaces ) notes both predictable shifts, like the sweep of seasons, and random events, like an early thaw at calving time that brought rampant bacterial infection to her herd. Without sentimentality, she moves between external conditions and internal, comparing her recovery from a lengthy illness to spring, or seeing in the diversity among bear dens an early order of the impulse to individuate (``Architecture''). Trips to Japan (``The Bridge to Heaven'') and to a California island near her birthplace (``Home Is How Many Places'') support her subtextual investigation of islands as symbol of isolation or metaphor of an individual's being fully embraced by his or her surroundings. Ehrlich's prose, while sometimes tangled in extravagant philosophical leaps, nevertheless yields provocative images, like that of a line of tree shadows frost-white against a warmed, darkened field. She is best when descriptive, her sharp eye cast unblinking both within and without. (Oct.)
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