cover image Nine Women

Nine Women

Shirley Ann Grau. Alfred A. Knopf, $15.95 (204pp) ISBN 978-0-394-54845-6

Infrequent in appearance, Grau's books are always an occasion for celebration. The nine stories in this new collectionall with a woman as their central characterconfirm her as a writer of keen psychological insight and luminously resonating prose. Grau's sensibility has an amazing range: outside of the Southern heritage they share, her women inhabit different social, economic and cultural worlds. ""Hunter'' concerns the only survivor of a plane crash that kills her family, who thereafter pursues her own surcease. Marvelously restrained, with every word polished to a burning clarity, the story engulfs and mesmerizes the reader. In ``Ending,'' the wedding of the daughter of an affluent black couple signals the dissolution of their marriage and exposes the disillusion that has eroded their upwardly mobile lives. Perfect in pitch and tone, ``Home'' captures an emotional confrontation between two women who are lovers, but ends in a reaffirmation of their vital connection. Grau's gently ironic sympathy permeates these tales. Though little overt action occurs, the forces that tether people to responsibilities, to rituals and traditions, to family loyalties, and, most tellingly, to life, are gracefully illumined. Franklin Library First Edition Society selection. January 20