At the Owl Woman Saloon

Tess Gallagher, Author Scribner Book Company $22 (240p) ISBN 978-0-684-82693-6
Set primarily in the Pacific Northwest, this enchanting collection of 16 occasionally interconnected stories by poet Gallagher (The Lover of Horses and Other Stories) is enlivened by an assortment of beguiling characters. ""To Dream of Bears"" features an opera-loving logger who stuffs his duplicitous wife's clothes in a freezer. Gallagher, wife of the late Raymond Carver, excels at capturing apt, unexpected defining moments. In ""The Leper,"" a woman counsels a suicidal friend on the phone as strangely foreboding deliveries--a pot full of lilies, a casserole--arrive at her house. ""A Box of Rocks"" is the most emotionally powerful story here. Devastated when the niece they have been raising abruptly returns to her mother, an anguished couple answers a request to mail the child's things by sending a box of rocks. Other stories depict fractured lives coming back together: asked for her husband's address, a widow in ""Coming and Going"" supplies directions to the cemetery--achieving a sense of control for the first time since his death. Throughout, Gallagher's use of precise detail to convey incremental revelations about her characters resonates with the reader. Her insight into the healing moments in ordinary lives is both subtle and extraordinary. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-684-84756-6
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