And Both Shall Row

Beth Lordan, Author Picador USA $21 (176p) ISBN 978-0-312-18682-1
The six short stories and one novella in this collection show Lordan's (August Heat) skill at weaving a dense tapestry out of the most mundane detail and the darkest secrets hidden from the closest relatives. Precise prose generously laced with subtle wisdom serves to heighten the ominous tone that pervades the stories, as if almost imperceptible earthquakes threaten to upset the precarious balance of her characters' lives. The title novella, a history of two sisters in their 80s who live together in a small Midwestern town, reveals how little they really know about each other. When a stroke leaves the younger sister paralyzed and interrupts a daily routine that has kept painful memories at bay--both sisters had been married, at different times, to the same man--the truth of their loneliness and regret emerges with frightening intensity. Faced with breaking habits that held little consolation for them, they both contemplate suicide, and it is this last desperate act that finally establishes a measure of understanding between them. The remaining stories are set in the same locale and feature characters who are similarly locked into a way of life; they are generally baffled by fate but grateful for the small tendernesses and friendships that each day offers. Small, understated epiphanies bring them comfort, and sometimes inspiration, in their struggles over bitterness and disappointment. Lordan is definitely a writer to watch; she eschews flashy effects to build characters whose simple lives take on dignity and meaning. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-312-20633-8
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