Vaquita and Other Stories

Edith Pearlman, Author University of Pittsburgh Press $24 (183p) ISBN 978-0-8229-3962-7
Set in locales as varied as a Boston soup kitchen and a nameless wartorn Central American country, the 15 stories in this debut collection gently delineate the interior lives of their thoughtful protagonists as they grapple with jealousy, longing, mortality and the desire to do good in a complicated world. Some of the tales are dark and fanciful, even creepy; others remain firmly entrenched in the everyday realities of middle-class life. What ties them together is the author's narrative restraint. Pearlman puts her characters through their paces, remaining always at a respectful distance. Mixing a dash of foreboding with a coolly observant eye, the stories share a matte texture in which the occasional bright turn of phrase sparkles all the more brightly: a worried mother, reunited with her lost child, takes relief ""like an injection."" An old man looks out a library window ""so narrow that he [feels] like shooting from it."" While Pearlman's use of language is often deft, many of these tales are disappointingly slight. Time and again, she piques the reader's curiosity by affording us a glimpse of a character's inner life, but then she lets the curtain fall much too soon. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/07/1996
Release date: 10/01/1996
Paperback - 183 pages - 978-0-8229-6211-3
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