cover image Isobars: Stories

Isobars: Stories

Janette Turner Hospital. Louisiana State University Press, $20.95 (177pp) ISBN 978-0-8071-1710-1

``An isobar,'' announces the title story in this brilliant collection, ``is an imaginary line connecting places of equal pressure on a map.'' Of course, the narrator adds, ``all lines on a map . . . are imaginary.'' Thus Hospital ( Charades ) begins her cartography, charting those landscapes of thought and memory in which discrete times and discrete places become inseparably joined. In ``The Second Coming of Come-by-Chance,'' for example, a drought leads to the discovery of a submerged city; an elderly local schoolteacher, meanwhile, is certain that her own buried secret--of her brutal rape years ago--will also be brought to light. A native of Australia who also lives and works in the U.S. and Canada, Hospital embellishes these psychological geographies with her sensitivity to physical settings. In some stories she uses supernatural elements to examine her characters' thought processes more explicitly: ``The Loss of Faith'' allows a man to glimpse his ex-wife on a New York City subway at the moment of her death in Australia. Hospital's extraordinary prose style, a model of elegant compression, is as restrained as it is resonant. (Sept.)