cover image Kneeling on Rice: Stories

Kneeling on Rice: Stories

Elizabeth Denton. University of Missouri Press, $17.95 (171pp) ISBN 978-0-8262-0968-9

Combining the powerful characters of Margaret Atwood and the darkly comic situations of John Irving, Denton's stories deserve a niche of their own. In many of these pieces, uninhibited, overflowing women are are contrasted with constrained, buttoned-up but ultimately weak male counterparts in a complex tapestry. In ``The Skinner Box,'' Kaidi peeks through Phillip's window before she dares to knock on his door, and catches a glimpse of an entirely different world. In ``Generations,'' Michelle, too, peeks in on the male world when her mother, dying of breast cancer, sends Michelle to spy on her father and glue fallen clumps of her mother's hair onto his shoes. ``Johanna'' is a powerfully athletic girl whose life is changed when the family barn burns down. ``Perhaps the night... marks the beginning of Johanna's understanding that feelings connect with experience and that, once you've had an emotion, especially an ugly one, there's no getting rid of it.'' Another woman's childhood gives the title story its name, as Judy remembers a youthful punishment and tries to clear her mind by kneeling again on the painful grains. Denton bores into the minds of her characters as few others can do. Hers is a name worth remembering. (Sept.)