THE KIND OF THINGS SAINTS DO

Laura Valeri, Author
Laura Valeri, Author . Univ. of Iowa $16.95 (166p) ISBN 978-0-87745-819-7
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The seven stories of Valeri's energetic debut collection range far and wide in their examination of the ins and outs of love and affection. In the title story, teenage Susan acts out on her suppressed attraction for her best friend, Dana, through self-mutilation and a sexual encounter with a boy Dana likes. "Whatever He Did, He Did Enough" describes the troubles of a man who rescues and falls in love with a beautiful Cuban girl, only to watch her behavior shift alarmingly after he brings her home to Miami. "She's Anonymous" offers a different angle on love, as a divorced woman in her early 30s takes up dating again and finds herself wandering in and out of a troubling affair with a damaged younger man she meets on the Internet. Writing is the subject of "A Rafter in Miami," as a Cuban hairdresser tries unsuccessfully to fulfill her prose dreams after she starts dating a prominent Miami writer. The final story is the longest and the most developed: "Turn These Stones into Bread" focuses on a father and son as they try to reconcile their various grudges during a hiking trip. Valeri rarely relies on expository prose to push her plots along, instead using dialogue and inner monologue to generate forward movement. A couple of the stories are murky and unfocused, and occasionally her prose turns melodramatic as she develops the different conflicts. But there's plenty of lively writing, which bodes well for Valeri's future, especially if she continues to explore unconventional characters and plot lines. (Oct.)

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