The Names of the Lost

Liz Wieland, Author, Liza Wieland, Author Southern Methodist University Press $19.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-87074-337-5
This first work of long fiction by poet and short-story writer Wieland (her work appeared in Pushcart Prize XVII: The Best of the Small Presses ) is lush, emotive, lyrical, and often provocative, and yet it never quite coheres as a novel. Too many voices and too many goings-on make for a disjointed, confusing read. The multiple murders of black children in Atlanta a dozen years ago and the attendant climate of fear serve as the factual backdrop here. for this often provoc ative work. The three primary narrators are teenage girls--Gus, Noreen and Robbie Lynn--who not only find the corpse of a young black boy in the Chattahoochee River, but face death and desertion in their private lives, losses that ultimately prove to be an implausible avalanche of tragedy. Such lack of credibility is unfortunate, because Wieland has real talent, as evidenced in her memorable depiction of Noreen, whose grandmother describes her family legacy as ``the curse of working dance halls, wearing false eyelashes and cheating at cards,'' and in such imagery as a green-gray-purple stormy sky that Wieland describes as ``the color of a bellyache.'' However, subplots and incidental journeys to Texas, Vermont and Tennessee, and additional chapters narrated by siblings, co-workers, friends and even a spirit from the afterlife obscure Wieland's purpose and stanch the flow of her narrative. The result is not a cohesive novel but a series of separate monologues. There is much fine, promising writing here, especially in the poetically musical passages; perhaps Wieland's next work will embody the unity that the novel form at its best calls for. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/1992
Release date: 12/01/1992
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