Nectar at Noon: Stories

Sheila Cudahy, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $16.95 (151p) ISBN 978-0-15-152170-8
Though written in cool, controlled prose, the 16 stories in this collection have a surrealistic quality that makes them memorable, if not entirely convincing. Cudahy sees the threat of death lurking under the surface of vibrant life. In ``Match Point,'' a boy swallows a tennis ball, ending a game only his father wanted to play. In ``Everything,'' an ironic reworking of the no-way-out fable, a man afraid of dying young, as his father had, divorces his wife to marry a fellow neurasthenic, only to be told he is terminally ill. After his new wife dies instead, he returns to his first wife, yet in the end he cannot beat the odds. Nature often runs amok in these stories. ``The gypsy moths attacked the woods behind our house,'' says the narrator in ``The Hired Girl,'' in which a motherless boy's attempts to embrace a wild goose end in the bird's death, leaving the bird's mate, like the boy and his father, bereft. Cudahy, a poet, has an eye for detail that can work to fine effect. Though she sometimes sacrifices credibility to shock value, these stories, with their careful, playful attention to the possibilities of imagination, bear real promise. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1989
Release date: 09/01/1989
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