cover image Playing with Shadows

Playing with Shadows

Gloria Whelan. University of Illinois Press, $14.95 (147pp) ISBN 978-0-252-01524-3

Exploring the quiet provinces of retired people, Midwest conservatives and those for whom formal religion is a fact of everyday life, these 14 rounded stories expose the heart pumping away beneath even the smoothest surfaces. In ``The Secret Meeting with Mr. Eliot,'' a self-taught woman signs up for a college course on T. S. Eliot offered for ``senior learners.'' How she deals with disappointment at the professor's lack of seriousness is inspiring and energizing. ``A Lesson in the Classics'' tells of a recently widowed classics professor from a small denominational college in the rural Midwest who travels to Greece and stays on as maitre d' in a small cafe. The light and landscape and lush favors of the cafe's owner help him through his grief until quotidian sensuality makes him long for the familiar austerity of home. In ``First Light,'' a recently divorced mother of grown children spends a summer with her overprotective 80-year-old father. On a midnight canoe trip, she breaks loose from him and locates the hope in her future. Humor, wit and polish distinguish this satisfying collection. (August)