River Talk

CB Anderson. C&R Press (www.crpress.org), $14.95 trade paper (236p) ISBN 978-1-936196-46-3
Anderson's debut story collection features the mill towns of Maine and their denizens. Taxidermists, bartenders, hunters, and fishermen fill these pages, with attention given to both their labor and their private lives. Marriages are largely unsuccessful, and children rarely emerge unscathed. Anderson's work has two modes—brief, clever tales, such as "Pipe" and "Baker's Helper," which read more like outlines or exercises than stories, and rich, lengthier pieces, in which Anderson provides room for her characters and their conflicts to develop. The strongest stories include "Mavak Tov," in which Kat DiMarco, renamed "Ranya" after she joins a cult, fears that her husband is using her brain-damaged daughter to attract publicity. Ranya attempts an ineffective escape by canoe, which Anderson depicts with compassion and grace: "Her leave-taking will be much like her arrival—heedless and alone." In "The Geometry of Words," Usha, a college student, understands that two classmates are in love as one uses his sweater to dry rainwater from another's hair. Anderson seizes on such moments to showcase her strength: clear, unhurried, confident prose with no intentions of showing off. Though Anderson's settings are similar, she introduces a range of people—from Korean War veterans to Somali refugees—each carefully crafted, each bearing a measure of dignity. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/21/2014
Release date: 03/01/2014
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