THE FALLING NUN: And Other Stories
The rituals of young urban women (office games, TV watching, parties, dating) mesh with darker ceremonies (tattooing, witchcraft, self-mutilation) in this collection of 12 fresh and vibrant stories. In "Tat," gaudy Liberty is tattooed with an antique valentine and finds herself transported by the experience: "it seems to her that everyone she knows is so full of love and suffering, so very full, that it overflows into wounds." Liberty is just one of Berkman's self-aware, vividly theatrical and faintly goth protagonists. Elizabeth, in "Gold Glitter," slathers herself with gold glitter gel for Halloween and hooks up with a devil at a costume party. In "Holy Holy Holy," the protagonist lets a temp at her office perform an evangelical healing ceremony over her carpal tunnel–afflicted wrist. The rites of Catholicism surface in a few stories, including "Veronica," in which disaffected teen Ronnie shares a moment of understanding with her Catholic school teacher, Sister Veronica. In the title story, the protagonist and several of her office mates share a set of plastic nuns and decide that each time one of the nuns fall over, they will be lucky in love. The system seems to work, but when various affairs sour, hate e-mails circulate around the office ("Nuns, a haiku/ Fuck that fucking nun"). Some of the other stories end too abruptly, but Berkman (Her Infinite Variety) has an uncanny understanding of a particular contemporary subclass of young women and captures them empathically and vividly. (Feb.)
Forecast:Women in their 20s and 30s who gravitate to retro clothing, street fair jewelry and mildly subversive forms of spiritual seeking are the natural audience for Berkman's second collection.