Anthony Bukoski, Author . Southern Methodist Univ. $22.50 (200p) ISBN 978-0-87074-479-2

In his fourth collection, Bukoski (Polonaise; Children of Strangers) brings to life once again the working-class town of Superior, Wis., telling linked tales of its Polish inhabitants in 13 poignant, well-crafted stories. In the title story, a lonely Jewish track inspector and a widowed teacher observe each other from a distance, until the teacher's garden, with its profusion of butterflies and flowers, brings them momentarily together. Polka accordionist Buck Mrozek admits, "[M]y VFW night is the high point of the month," and he plays his heart out to a pretty German woman saddled with a boorish husband in "Closing Time." In these stories and others, thoughtful, stoical characters are briefly connected in moments more lovely for their fleetingness. Older protagonists—faithful, conservative, family oriented—dominate the collection. One noteworthy exception is Thaddeus Milszewski, a Marine cook who appears in several stories. He loves, and then reluctantly abandons, his half-French, half-Vietnamese lover in "The Bird That Sings in the Bamboo"; in "A Geography of Snow," his young cousin watches "crazy Tad" as he drunkenly kisses a map of their neighborhood, proclaiming the map will go back with him to Vietnam, "so a medic can get it for me while I'm dying. In the newspapers, you'll read about the casualty of a hometown boy." Bukoski proves himself a keen, sympathetic observer of his characters' travails and foibles, and these atmospheric tales are a moving testament to a wintry region and its hardy inhabitants. (Aug.)

Forecast:If Southern Methodist is able to target Polish communities and local Wisconsin bookstores, this engaging collection could make a respectable showing.

Reviewed on: 07/14/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
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