Surreal, fresh, funny and very British in its oddball humor, London-based writer Barker's debut story collection portrays people confronting personal crises and the strangeness of the universe. The best of these tales anchor supernatural elements in complex emotional relationships. In ``Food with Feeling,'' for example, a pregnant woman cooks meals that take on the personalities of family members; when her husband eats a slice of her Truth Cake, he reveals his resentment of their unborn child. Other stories convey terse, jarring parables or eerie anecdotes. ``Layla's Nose Job'' tracks a teenager's obsessive worry that people won't notice how different she looks after cosmetic surgery. In ``The Butcher's Apprentice'' young Owen brings home a pulsating tumor cut from a slab of meat, cares for it, buries it, then decides he wasn't cut out to be a butcher. ``The Afghan War'' describes the canine custody battle of a separated couple, who blissfully reunite, oblivious to their prized pet's dire suffering. The most powerful and realistic tale, ``John's Box,'' concerns a carpenter dying of AIDS, who comes to terms with mortality by building his own coffin, and a flighty shopgirl who attains depth and maturity through caring for him. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993 Release date: 08/01/1993 Genre: Fiction
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