cover image Bodies at Sea

Bodies at Sea

Erin McGraw, Author University of Illinois Press $14.95 (158p) ISBN 978-0-252-01631-8

Carefully crafted, finely tuned, the 11 short stories in this collection often examine subtle shifts in family relationships. In ``Accepted Wisdom,'' a coal miner whose wife has deserted him dotes upon his loving and capable teenaged daughter, only to be destroyed when he discovers that her promising life has taken a downward turn. A young art instructor in ``Life Drawing'' finds unpleasant insights in the raw portraits her untutored sister-in-law sketches. Many of McGraw's meticulously evoked characters, damaged in some way, skirt the edge of madness or are propelled by their obsessions. Evelyn, a 53-year-old, respected professor whose kleptomania has been kept secret, veers over the edge when she abducts an infant in ``A Thief.'' The title story tells of a 25-year-old widow who seeks consolation with an old friend, only to find him tightly bound to a deranged wife. In ``Legs,'' a man's infatuation with old movies leads him to abduct from a nursing home his incapacitated aunt, a former Busby Berkley girl. Though these gently told tales sometimes seem overly mannered, most are ultimately moving. (Sept.)