Silent Retreats: Stories

Philip F. Deaver, Author University of Georgia Press $19.95 (229p) ISBN 978-0-8203-0981-1
Self-conscious men and tough women inhabit the highways and small towns of Deaver's mainly Midwestern landscape. A lapsed Catholic experiencing a mid-life crisis learns in the title story that church retreats have become encounter groups; a macho computer analyst fantasizes about the office feminist in ""Why I Shacked Up with Martha''; a cowgirl drifter hides behind theatrical eye make-up and her ambitions as a writer in ``Fiona's Rooms''; and brazenly sexy, country hick Rhonda strings along the faceless adolescent narrator in ``Arcola Girls.'' Permeated with finely crafted writing, grounded in the solidity of objects and places realized through well-textured description and resonant dialogue, this debut (winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction) makes a wise, quietly provocative statement about commonplace tragedy and the ironies and fragility of relationships. Most intriguing are the subtle connections that emerge as recurrent characters combat lossdeparted lovers; quick, pointless death by carwith various, always frustrated retreats from the communal realities of their lives. Less successful, however, is the dramatic integrity of the pieces in isolation. Though the stories accrue power in retrospect, individually they suffer from loose structure that sometimes makes them waver and lose direction. (May)
Reviewed on: 08/05/1988
Release date: 04/01/1988
Genre: Fiction
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