cover image Normal


Lucia Nevai. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $17.95 (238pp) ISBN 978-1-56512-158-4

Resentful children, rebellious teenagers and loud-mouthed drunkards crowd the 12 stories in Nevai's first collection, an ambitious examination of warped family dynamics that includes everything from child molestation and adultery to self-mutilation and petty larceny. In the title story, 21-year-old Rae, who was kicked out of her parents' house at age 16 for doing drugs, invites her wary, hard-drinking father to see her new baby and her new life. In ""Close,"" a story first published in the New Yorker, a family therapist contemplates the emotional distance in her own family while en route to her brother's funeral, imagining her far-flung relatives connected by the airline routes on an inflight magazine map. Nevai's handling of emotional states is perceptive, and her descriptions of loneliness and emotional isolation can be heartbreaking. By fearlessly assuming the viewpoints of such a broad range of speakers-including a short, swaggering New Jersey adulterer, the bereaved mother of a coma patient and a disabled, dishonest WWII veteran from Louisiana-Nevai displays impressive imaginative powers. Although some of her tales are weakened by obvious symbolism or by narrative voices that lack credibility, Nevai is clearly a writer of uncommon potency and reach. (Apr.)