cover image Garden Primitives

Garden Primitives

Danielle Sosin, Author Coffee House Press $14.95 (204p) ISBN 978-1-56689-100-4

Sosin's clean, poetic diction and attention to detail lend the 12 stories in her lean debut collection a limpid precision, but her uneven plotting leaves some stories unmoored. Many of these vignettes focus on outsiders, characters exiled from society or from their families. ""What Mark Couldn't See,"" one of the book's standouts (chosen as a ""Selected Short"" by National Public Radio), focuses on a family struggling in the wake of a rebellious daughter's departure--even as she watches their house from across the street, unnoticed. Another strong entry, ""Mother Superior,"" captures the feel of a Minnesota harbor town in winter, as an aging woman from the wrong side of the tracks suffers a cruel misunderstanding by the ""nice"" guy she wants to date. The clever ""Internal Medicine"" delivers the powerfully straightforward monologue of a gynecological teaching model as she is examined by a class of anxious first-year med students. For every one of these neat, punchy stories, however, there is a ""Still Life,"" which idles in neutral as it describes the tedious daily routine of its jobless protagonist, or ""Planted,"" a loose, rambling account of the thoughts of a woman lolling on her front lawn. Other short narratives, like ""Submersion"" and ""You're So Simple,"" allude to tragic accidents but avoid tackling them head-on. While too many of these rambling, plotless stories siphon energy from the well-crafted ones, the author's careful descriptions of the natural world and of realistic psychological states mark the book with a distinctive, memorable style. (Apr.)