Karen Gettert Shoemaker, Author . Dufour $14.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8023-1337-9

The 16 stories in this debut collection offer a comprehensive look at pivotal events in the lives of women and girls in the rural Midwest. Shoemaker is at her best writing from the perspective of a child or an adolescent, particularly in "Playing Horses," a story in which a young girl filters the difficult experiences of her youth through her love of horses, and in "Dyanna's Face Reflected in Glass," in which an adolescent girl's jealousy of her best friend backfires when she gets raped by the friend's fiancé. The title tale offers a more poignant exploration of childhood issues, as a young girl struggles to talk her father into letting her go on a fishing trip with her older brothers. The stories with adult protagonists aren't quite as consistent, but there are still some fine moments, especially in "Crossings," in which a mother and daughter retreat to a lakeside cottage to face death together. Shoemaker's chief asset as a writer is her talent for observation and nuance, which she puts to especially good use when kids have to observe and interpret adult behavior. Though her one male narrator, who writes about his wife's death in a random shooting in "Orphans," is hollow and unconvincing, the rest of her stories are quietly accomplished. If they sometimes feel mannered, they are also crafted with care and grace. This book establishes Shoemaker as a talented chronicler of rural life and domestic gestures, with an eye for what's funny in grief, and what's sad in humor. (May 3)

Reviewed on: 04/01/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
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