A Hole in the Language

Marly Swick, Author University of Iowa Press $10 (192p) ISBN 978-0-87745-296-6
The 1990 Iowa Short Fiction Award-winning stories in this debut collection calibrate loss and mourning. Families disintegrate: children are killed; husbands desert wives; mothers already maddened by grief can no longer care for their children and must relinquish them. Women succumb to cancer and undergo mastectomies; others, apparently intact, know that something fundamental is missing in their lives. Swick's narrators, who range from schoolchildren to backwater spinsters and college professors, face down tragedy with a toughness conveyed with deadpan wit and grace. When in ``Heart'' a concerned aunt talks about a niece's report from the school psychologist, her husband tells her, ``Don't fill her head up with all that psychiatrist talk. . . She got troubles enough already''). In ``Eating Alone,'' a widow mourns the recent death of her sister, Delphine, ``until it occurred to me that maybe my husband and Delphine were together somewhere, some otherworld disco, dancing up a storm. Even dead, Delphine was probably more of live wire than I ever was.'' In these 10 tales, Swick apportions weal and woe so evenly that it's hard to know whether to cheer or cry. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1990
Release date: 11/01/1990
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