The View from Below

Lindsey Crittenden, Author
Lindsey Crittenden, Author Mid-List Press $14 (160p) ISBN 978-0-922811-40-3
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Many of the nine stories in Crittenden's debut collection explore the hurt of family life from a child's perspective, describing the moments when young people are catapulted into the adult world. In the title story, nine-year-old Robin gets a distressing glimpse of adult mysteries on a family visit to an uncle's home. Robin dimly perceives the circumstances of her uncle's divorce (""It seemed like a dirty word... that she wasn't supposed to know""); her mother comes home drunk from a party one night; and a teenage babysitter steals her parents' condoms. The moon landing seen on TV seems as unreal to her as life in scorching hot and smoggy L.A. In ""What Her Sister Wanted,"" Jamie misses her dad and blames her mother for leaving him, and a birthday trip to Marine World provides the setting for a painful deception where she and her sibling suffer for their parents' animosity. Intricately detailed West Coast settings and a supple range of characters display Crittenden's poignant comprehension of the fragmentation of memory and how early bonds of love reverberate throughout a lifetime. Other stories feature adult protagonists, such as ""Careful,"" where sexual compatibility reveals a missing component in the fragile relationship of a young couple, and the resolution is unexpected and moving. Like conversations that are left unfinished, Crittenden's stories stir up more than they resolve, but readers will appreciate the author's dexterity with imperfect intimacies and untidy emotions. Agent: Susan Schulman. (Feb.)
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