Marked Men

Michael C. White, Author University of Missouri Press $19.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-8262-1294-8
What does it take to derail a life? In White's first story collection (after two novels, A Brother's Blood and The Blind Side of the Heart), it can be something dramatic, like the death of a child or a crippling accident, or it can be something more quiet, like an early retirement or just too many years on the road. White seizes on pivotal incidents like these in 12 thoughtful tales about doggedly regular people and their private struggles to make one day move into the next. In the title story, a father and son--one a veteran of WWII, the other of Vietnam--drink through a long night, arguing about who had a more difficult tour of duty. Intent on judging who suffered most, they seem unable to recognize how intimately their experiences connect them. In ""Burn Patterns,"" a traveling arson investigator is jerked out of his numbing routine when he picks up a quirky female hitchhiker, while in ""Disturbances,"" a rural doctor is more literally yanked awake by a late-night call to pronounce a man dead. He does indeed find the man stone cold--blown open by a shotgun--but also discovers a complicated moral situation that stirs old memories. Like that story, ""Ray's Shoes"" shows ordinary people in a situation more complex than they had anticipated, as a couple agrees to help a young man whose wife has just died. The collection is flawed because certain situations resemble others too closely; a narrative featuring a man in a wheelchair, for example, is followed immediately by another story with a character in a wheelchair, so that the image loses freshness. Overall, however, White offers simple observations that resonate in the reader's mind. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/21/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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