Susanna Tamaro, Author , trans. from the Italian by John Cullen. Doubleday/Talese $23.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-385-50351-8

In this provocative collection of three novellas set in modern-day Italy, Tamaro (Follow Your Heart) skillfully explores themes of religion, depression, jealousy, violence and isolation. Using starkly wrought first-person narratives, the Umbria-based author establishes taut story lines punctuated with bold, provocative statements. For Rosa, the bitter protagonist of the title novella, worshiping the statue of the Virgin Mary is tantamount to genuflecting before a box of laundry detergent or, as she says, "Had I knelt down before a stack of canned tomatoes at the supermarket, it would have been exactly the same thing." The troubled 19-year-old orphan daughter of a prostitute, Rosa suffers from isolation and self-medicates with alcohol to ease her loneliness. Soon, the bitter young woman is caught in a twisted psychosexual game involving two men and a horrific twist of events. In a second, equally strong novella, "Hell Doesn't Exist," a widow in her mid-50s confronts her limitations as a mother and human being while remembering her catastrophic marriage and the sadistic behavior of her deceased husband. In the third entry, "The Burning Forest," Tamaro links her tales about maligned, misunderstood and fettered women with a clarion call to free will. An intriguing touch is the white dog that appears in all three tales—perhaps an agent of redemption. If Tamaro's view is dark, the care she takes with character development infuses her narratives with a clear and resonant moral vision. (Mar. 19)

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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