Survival Rates: Stories

Mary Clyde, Author
Mary Clyde, Author University of Georgia Press $24.95 (184p) ISBN 978-0-8203-2049-6
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-393-32084-8
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Low-key and bland on the surface, the Southwestern characters of Clyde's restrained first collection (winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction) stay matter-of-fact in the face of alarming circumstance. ""Farming Butterflies"" introduces a sensitive teenage boy to his mother's dearest friend, the ""precarious"" Deirdre, whose affinity for bright foods and search for spiritual ascension put a sunny face on desperation and suicidal tendencies. In ""Jumping,"" a woman remembers the ski-lift accident that she survived but that killed her schoolmate Veronica when they were 13: ""What I know is that if she'd lived I'd have completely forgotten her... in her death I was caught, frozen in my indifference."" Many of the characters in these nine tales come from Mormon families, and address unsettling events with the blank confidence of faith: ""Mormons hope tragedy improves the soul,"" one survivor claims. The successful plastic surgeon in ""Howard Johnson's House"" struggles to sympathize with his insufferable and socially ambitious mother when she reveals her illness to be ""t-e-r-m-i-n-a-l."" Grief, disappointment and loss test the mettle and change the contours of these people's lives. But while Clyde's omniscient, smooth-browed confidence makes the stories a pleasure to read, sometimes her determinedly straightforward prose could use some graceful arpeggios. (Mar.)
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