The four female characters featured in Graham's debut story collection have different names. Other than that, however, they're hard to distinguish: they're all approaching middle-age, drink heavily, are divorced (or soon to be) and fail at relationships with depressing regularity. All residents of San Francisco (the setting for most of the stories), they find occasional excitement in new lovers, but it's always short-lived, leaving them in even bleaker situations than before. Graham structures the collection (which won the Associated Writing Program Award for Short Fiction) in four sections, one for each woman, though in truth they're mostly interchangeable. ""Kilter"" features Jane, who is twice divorced and whose latest lover has just killed himself in a drunk-driving accident. Overwhelmed by the loss and dismissed by her prim daughter, Betsy Jane finds that her world grows ever smaller and lonelier. In ""Rapture,"" recently divorced Magdalena tries to distract herself in Las Vegas, with only limited success. In ""Skin and Bone,"" Zoe, also recently divorced, is trying plastic surgery and a bohemian-style lover named Guy, but neither has quite the effect she desires. Graham brings a refreshingly frank sexuality to these women's lives, but their continual self-abuse (in the form of drinking, bad relationships and a relentless need for male attention) soon exhausts the reader's patience. Though Graham's precise and detailed prose shows promise, the stories fall into a repetitive pattern--leaving each of the women lonely and miserable by the end. After the first few tales, we know where each story is going, and it's nowhere that's very much fun. Editor, Bruce Wilcox. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998 Release date: 10/01/1998 Genre: Fiction
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