The wise, highly original 16 stories in Bender's debut collection take place at the intersection of fairy tale and everyday life, of hilarity and heartbreak. From the book's first sentence (""My lover is experiencing reverse evolution""), it's clear that this world is far from ordinary. As the lover in the story (""The Rememberer"") moves from ape to sea turtle to salamander, the reader moves from startled dislocation to delight. After this strong opening, what follows is equally good and equally surprising. The plots range from the unexpected to the fantastic: a woman gives birth to her own mother; in an effort to drive away grief, a bereaved librarian seduces man after man in the library's back room; a mermaid and an imp enjoy a high-school romance; an orphaned boy develops an uncanny talent for finding lost objects. As Bender explores a spectrum of human relationships, her perfectly pitched, shapely writing blurs the lines between prose and poetry. While full of funny moments, these tales are neither slight nor glib. They recognize that to be human is to be immensely fragile, and their characters are always unmistakably human. In ""What You Left in the Ditch,"" a woman whose husband has returned from the war without lips tells her teenage lover, ""The most unbearable thing I think by far... is hope,"" yet hope--that isolation and grief are temporary, that love exists, that the ugly can be made beautiful--is what she and all the stories' bruised and lonely characters insist on. Bender's is a unique and compassionate voice, and her debut is a string of jewels. First serial to Granta, GQ and Story; author tour. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998 Release date: 07/01/1998 Genre: Fiction
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