Women on the Run

Janet Campbell Hale, Author University of Idaho Press $16.95 (186p) ISBN 978-0-89301-217-5
In these six intriguing if uneven tales, young and old Native American women struggle against adversity and often draw strength from their roots. Plucky 79-year-old Claire LaFromme, or ""She-Is-Free,"" the protagonist of the eponymous ""Claire,"" escapes from a hellish nursing home disguised as a man and pawns her jewelry to buy bus tickets back to the reservation. Along the way, she takes courage from her memories of her flight as an eight-year-old from a repressive Catholic mission school. In the charmingly droll ""Dora Lee in Love,"" a young woman rescues a drifter from drowning. When he poses as the man of her dreams, she thinks she's in heaven, but time will prove she's in another place altogether. The ambitious and often perplexing title story meshes two plot lines, one concerning a successful writer whose imagination is in overdrive, and the other dealing with a political fugitive, an Indian activist whose colorful life inspires the novelist to attempt a biography. ""Deborah and Her Snakes"" (subtitled a ""cautionary tale"") features a recurring dream that prompts a desperate young mother to gamble, with unfortunate results. Another young mother, in ""Alma,"" resolves to escape the cycle of poverty. When she becomes pregnant after a one-night stand, she has an abortion and gets on with her life. As if to reinforce the feminist message here, Hale appends a fable in which a determined female frog outwits a villainous male coyote. The fierce determination of the Native American sisters in these sometimes rambling but always vivid stories is the quality that makes them appealing. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/30/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
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