The Orange Fish

Carol Shields, Author
Carol Shields, Author Viking Books $17.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-670-83327-6
Reviewed on: 07/01/1990
Release date: 07/01/1990
Although a variety of well-realized voices animate the 12 stories in Shields's fine collection, they are all plainspoken and direct--the hallmarks of her sturdy prose. All stories except three are set in her native Canada; most have as protagonists people locked into themselves, suffused with nostalgia, regret, incommunicable longing--and sometimes fulfilled by flashes of communication and tentative hope. In several stories, ordinary people undergo metamorphosis: in the title piece, a couple who acquires a lithograph of an orange fish is suddenly accepted into a charmed circle; in ``Chemistry'' another group is bonded in a magical way by a shared interest; ``Hazel'' is a widow who acquires job skills and confidence and expects to take control of her destiny--only to discover that ``her life is an accident and she has blundered into the heart of it.'' The most distinctive story is ``Collision,'' which hinges upon the notion that the earth's atmosphere is composed of the ``biographical debris'' of everyone who has ever lived. Shields's narrative method is suggested in one tale as ``the way a human life drains toward one revealing scene.'' The author of the accomplished novel Swann should widen her audience with these perceptive tales. (July)
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!