cover image This Is Not the Tropics

This Is Not the Tropics

Ladette Randolph, Author . Univ. of Wisconsin $24.95 (292p) ISBN 978-0-299-21510-1

A clear-eyed portrait of the Plains emerges over 15 debut stories from University of Nebraska press executive editor Randolf. In "Billy,"a long-resigned housewife trapped in a loveless marriage gets ready to flee town with a more compatible if unexciting married man when her husband suddenly dies. In the poignant, unnerving "Hyacinths," an unexpected pregnancy and the possibility of a church group's dubious intervention causes a once cheerful mother to rebel against the hypocrisy of a town "fossilized in the past." House-sitting her eccentric professor's home, replete with pornographic art and two needy pugs, may have more to teach a young college student about life than her closest friends in "The Girls." A small Nebraska town becomes a hotbed of aggressively charged transvestism in "Miss Kielbasa," as local men ready for the annual "queen contest" while a white daughter frets over her family's reaction to her upcoming nuptials to a black man. Solid but never surprising, the stories have a claustrophobic feel that is often appropriate to their characters' circumscribed lives, but that just as often limits their reach. (Sept.)