Best known for Arctic Dreams and other book-length essays about the natural world, Lopez is also a prolific and eclectic fiction writer (Field Notes; Lessons from the Wolverine). In this new collection of 13 stories, with settings ranging from the Pacific Northwest to the Caribbean and the Arab peninsula, he continues to expand the boundaries of his fiction, and while not all the entries are successful, they demonstrate a writer willing to take risks in his work. In the quietly touching ""Remembering Orchards,"" the narrator, viewing a swath of filbert trees, gains an epiphanic understanding of his gentle stepfather and of the tragic situation that ended his life. ""Emory Bear Hands' Birds"" is a powerful narrative in which Lopez utilizes a Native American storyteller and magical realism to evoke hope and a sense of community in a prison population, culminating in an emotional liberation. ""Stolen Horses"" uses the memoirist's skill at re-creating events long past, turning them over for possible meaning and tapping them for their impact on current circumstances. The title story is a brutally realistic tale in which a vacationing yuppie couple courts trouble while diving in the Caribbean. Other entries take a decidedly Borgesian turn. ""Rub n Mendoza Vega"" bears the disguise of a history lecture, complete with extensive footnotes and bibliography. ""The Letters of Heaven"" evokes not only the historical playfulness of the Argentinean master, but also his wistful romanticism. Like Peter Matthiessen, Lopez enriches narratives of human behavior with his deep knowledge of animals and the environment. There is enough variety in characters and situations for the book to move beyond the readership for nature-oriented fiction and to establish Lopez in the realm of those who plumb the human heart. The book's lovely cover, depicting green- and orange-tinted wings cascading along a pale yellow-green background, will draw browsers' attention. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000 Release date: 10/01/2000 Genre: Fiction
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