Barbara Sutton, Author . Univ. of Georgia $24.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-8203-2655-9

Companionship emerges in unexpected places for the characters of Sutton's shining collection of 10 short stories, a Flannery O'Connor Award–-winning debut that brims with life and wit. For nine-year-old Marta in "Tra il devoto et profano ," the book's opening story, it comes in the form of the minister who hangs around her grandmother's house getting jovially plastered between writing sermons, taking the place of Marta's absent mother and father. In "Rabbit Punch," an emotionally unstable academic fills the void left by her lost job, friends and husband with booze and pills until she encounters a despicable nine-year-old boy on a similar path of self-destruction. Sutton does not dwell on the tragedy of these lives; rather, she endows her characters with sardonic wit. The title of the story "Tenants" refers to the various interlopers—an ex-boyfriend who refuses to move out, a suicidal renter and a woodchuck—endured by a mother, daughter and sister. The hilarious convergence of their tenant problems ends in a poignant sum-up: "One giant continuum of the man part of mankind—don't pay the rent, trash the place, behave like animals. And all of it—somehow—in the name of love." The unexpected unites the impressive range of voices in this delightful, imaginative book. (Oct. 1)

Forecast: Readers who've enjoyed Julie Hecht ( The Unprofessionals) and Margot Livesey (who supplies a blurb) will relish the cool humor of Sutton's debut.

Reviewed on: 09/06/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
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