Seventeen Times as High as the Moon: Short Stories

Julia Oliver, Author Black Belt Press $18 (160p) ISBN 978-1-881320-04-3
The author's refreshing treatment of the supernatural and her playful sense of irony, especially when applied to the themes of death and separation, make this a strong first collection. Each of the 15 crisp stories wastes no time introducing characters and getting to the point, although Oliver sometimes allows her offbeat humor to sneak up on the reader, as in ``Futures,'' a tale of two college students who visit a fortune teller only to discover, eventually, that the seeress mixed up their futures. In another sly story, a woman paying solitary ``Last Respects'' to her former husband is so intent on her memories that she doesn't realize until the end that she has been seated before the wrong casket--her ex, it turns out, having been cremated. In a different tone, ``Penolia'' depicts a woman using her ``special power'' to physically transform her daughter's appearance in order to discourage the child's father from abducting her. Despite the frequent supernatural overtones, these tales are essentially parables of modern life, often profiling people at a pivotal moment after the death of a spouse, divorce or some other milestone. They succeed both as entertainment and as commentary about personal and societal expectations in the age of the redefined family. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 11/02/1992
Release date: 11/01/1992
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