The Consolation of Nature, and Other Stories

Valerie Martin, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $16.95 (147p) ISBN 978-0-395-46788-6
Death, unnatural creatures, household pets and the conflicts of the natural world with the rules of society are elements in this striking collection of 10 stories by the author of A Recent Martyr, Alexandra and Set in Motion. Martin's characters are women at odds with the world or young girls confronting powerful and defining situations. In the title story a family forges new bonds as it unites in battle with a monstrous rat. In ""The Freeze,'' a woman coping with humiliating rejection is too distracted to realize that the clinking noise outside her window is that of a desperate cat who dies with his head stuck in a can. ``The Woman Who Was Never Satisfied'' must literally drain herself to find temporary solace. In ``Spats,'' a woman whose husband has left her seeks a sad revenge by having his beloved dog, so like him in many ways, put to sleep. Some of the stories have supernatural components. In ``Death Goes to a Party,'' a wolf-man turns out to be wearing no mask after all. ``Sea Lovers'' conjures up a hideous mermaid whose fatal seduction of a fisherman provides better reason than Jaws for staying out of the water. Only the last story, ``Elegy for Dead Animals,'' is less than compelling. While well written, it is more of a Dillard-like essay than a story, and Martin is only telling us what we already know deeply because we have been reading her fiction. The reiterations of theme are superfluous. But despite the letdown of the last few pages, The Consolation of Nature is an outstanding collection. (January 25)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 978-0-679-72159-8
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