cover image Silent Passengers: Stories

Silent Passengers: Stories

Larry Woiwode. Atheneum Books, $18 (131pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12159-3

In the 10 stories comprising his latest collection, Woiwode ( Indian Affairs ) captures the essence of contemporary midwestern American life. Eschewing the conventional narrative, he creates a palette of 10 subtle but vivid and commanding stories that illuminate the reaches of the human heart. With dreamlike intensity, the protagonist of ``Owen's Father'' searches for his identity, ``watching scenes replay themselves, he believed he was discovering the reality of his father, and this brought him closer to himself.'' In a touching, funny, and bittersweet evocation of a fledgling romance (``Sleeping Love''), two young lovers-to-be find the bedroom they had intended to sleep in occupied by a party. Dragging a mattress into the basement they sleep there, chaste as lambs. When they waken in the morning, ``She lay at his side, breathing heat over his face. . . . He got up and hooked the basement door. . . . The effect was as if he'd proposed.'' Nowhere is Woiwode's spare yet resonating prose more effective than in the immensely affecting title story. A father who had always wondered how parents cope when their children are in pain shares the experience when his own son is badly hurt in a riding accident. ``He pitied their patience and calm, but now he understood; it was enough to have the children with them, alive.'' Written by a prose master, these vignettes shimmer with insights as they celebrate the resilience of the human spirit. ( Aug .)