A Visit to Strangers

Gladys Swan, Author University of Missouri Press $19.95 (170p) ISBN 978-0-8262-1051-7
Each of these 13 short stories has a haunting, raw and melancholy tone as Swan's characters twist painfully at the end of their emotional tethers. Swann (Do You Believe in Cabeza de Vaca?) focuses on people whose lives are stalled or in disarray and proceeds to bare their frustrations. The title story is an edgy little tale about a complacent middle-aged couple whose lives are disrupted by the visit of a friend's young daughter. In the course of their summer together, the three main characters waltz around one another, compounding sexual tension and domestic annoyances. The old woman in ""Falling Leaves"" tries to keep her fragile world together as she struggles to remember names and faces. Looming over her is the inevitability of spending her last days in a nursing home, where she is certain she will lose all vestiges of memory and dignity. ""Trash"" provides an uncomfortable look at a woman who is losing everything: ""Scandal like a running sore. How far fallen? Not to the very bottom-not yet. You might lose your hold, slip out, but how far down before the rot and slime?"" Not for the faint of heart, these stories may be serious and even dour, but they are also distinctive and, above all, memorable. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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