In his first collection, Dubus displays a firm grasp of the requirements of satisfying short fiction and a wide-ranging eye tightly focused on the telling detail. Many of his stories center around prisons, their main characterswhether guards or inmatesbeing men on the edge of incarceration or release, an in-between state rendering them particularly vulnerable to failure and its legacy. The title story tells of a young guard in a minimum-security facility whose sympathies for crime victims are tempered when he is taken hostage by an escapee and, trapped with him during a long night's drive, learns the story behind his conviction. ``Duckling Girl'' is about a teenager who seeks relief from her sexually abusive father with two similarly abusive teenage boys. The particularly accomplished final story, ``Last Dance,'' is narrated by a young man who learns to accept the end of an affair during a night-long hunt for a snapping turtle; with echoes of The Old Man and the Sea , this story captures powerful emotional movement in the carefully rendered details of a metaphor. Often violent, given to drink, vulnerable to sexual desire, Dubus's characters are equally capable of compassion and love. No unessential information diminishes the impact of these stories , but what does matterto both characters and readersis grippingly and generously portrayed. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989 Release date: 01/01/1989 Genre: Fiction
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