A Complicated Situation: Stories by Jane Mullen

Jane Mullen, Author Southern Methodist University Press $19.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-87074-431-0
The title perhaps suggests the problem with this gently disturbing yet altogether too mild first collection: Mullen presents only the ""situations"" and does not give herself the length of leash that resolutions need. Her characters--the mourning, orphaned, leaving, left behind--dodge, evade and ultimately fail to interact with the others in their lives. ""Deserters"" is narrated by a fatherless and love-struck preteen girl who shows her disappointment when the older man she woos is inaccessible. In ""That's No Way,"" Catherine, now married, has lunch with her former lover, Sam. When a post-lunch tryst seems likely, Catherine sneaks off, leaving the story's promise unfulfilled. ""Dardis and Me,"" perhaps the collection's most complete story, charts the estrangement and reconciliation of a recently orphaned brother and sister in their early 20s. Happy marriages and intact families are scarce; yet for all the collection's pathos and compassion, the prose itself feels somewhat orphaned and uninhabited. One hopes that the potential in Mullen's steady (though shy) voice develops in the future. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
Genre: Fiction
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