Lost Women, Banished Souls

Garnett Kilberg Cohen, Author University of Missouri Press $19.95 (168p) ISBN 978-0-8262-1073-9
In these polished yet lackluster stories, Cohen (an English professor at Columbia College in Chicago) falls back repeatedly on the same themes and patterns: a woman's earlier experience resurfaces later in life. A woman paging through a photo album reminisces about her daughter and husband, then recalls being told after a car accident that her spouse is dead and that her child is ""hanging by an eyelash."" She then fantasizes a reunion with the woman (apparently of a lower class than the narrator) with whom she shared a hospital room when her daughter was born. Class figures heavily here: a woman recalls how her mother derided her cousin Rina (who seemed glamorous to her) for being ""tacky."" Rina died giving birth to an illegitimate child; when the narrator has her own baby she sees a reassuring vision of her cousin. The tale of a couple appearing as guests on a talk show wants it both ways: the author both ridicules our television-obsessed culture and tries to provoke emotion with the woman's sudden flashback to a gang rape. For another narrator, a return to the small Ohio town of her childhood jolts her into remembering the day she enacted the funeral of a doll with her babysitting charges. In a few stories about young women and their early sexual relationsips, Cohen approaches the lives of teenage girls more directly. While the individual stories are good, the collective sameness of them all is dulling. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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