Dufresne stares unblinkingly into the void in ordinary people's lives. The characters in this powerful debut short story collection desperately seek a salvation that they suspect will never come and yet, in just muddling through, his drifters, fast-food clerks, farmers, innkeepers, movie addicts, loners and losers achieve a certain dignity. Many search for a reference point to provide meaning, whether in an illegally grown tomato-garden, a smudge on a refrigerator door that seemingly erupts into ``the very face of Jesus,'' or in a fired science teacher's obsessive ruminations on a wife who keeps walking out on him. In ``Hard Time the First Time,'' a compulsive list-maker, living with a mentally handicapped roommate, tries to convince his estranged wife to cohabit with them as an extended family. In ``Must I Be Carried to the Sky on Flowered Beds of Ease?'' a terminally ill man, who may have AIDS, goes home to his alienated father's place to die. Winner of a PEN fiction award, Dufresne carves a fictional territory extending from the bleak Massachusetts of Andre Dubus to the godforsaken Deep South of Flannery O'Connor. His distinctive voice makes this realm his own. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/04/1991 Release date: 02/01/1991 Genre: Fiction
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