cover image This Place You Return to is Home

This Place You Return to is Home

Kirsty Gunn, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $22 (208p) ISBN 978-0-87113-741-8

In spare, haunting prose, Gunn (The Keepsake) explores the varying images conjured up by the word ""home"" in this collection of 11 short stories, in which the underlying tone is one of discomfort and disillusion. In ""Not That Much to Go On""--the first of two companion stories--a mother unable to deal with the stifling circumstances of her marriage flees to her childhood country home with her two daughters and baby boy. In ""Not That Much To Go On: 2,"" her children, forced to manage on their own, suffer a terrifying isolation within the confines of their mother's obsessively idealized haven. In two other stories, children happily thrive in the homes of their grandmothers, only to have their exuberance snuffed out by their mothers. Most of the selections are lyrically written vignettes, rather than complete narratives, and readers may feel bewildered by the sense that Gunn is showing mere glimpses of lives that she has imagined in their entirety. ""Tinsel bright,"" a compelling look at a young girl's discovery of her father's homosexuality, is one of the few stories in which the scenario is completely explained. Elsewhere, one wishes for more clarity and closure rather than the intense, oblique approach of this talented writer. (Feb.)