cover image Small Craft Warnings: Stories

Small Craft Warnings: Stories

Kate Braverman. University of Nevada Press, $17 (168pp) ISBN 978-0-87417-321-5

The women depicted in poet (Postcard from August) and novelist (Wonders of the West) Braverman's unremarkable new collection have fallen out of love with the self-destruction that marked her characters' lives in previous work. Underneath the seemingly tidy existences of her female characters, whether teenaged or middle-aged, lies (still) a host of precarious fragilities, though the women have moved beyond recovery from substance abuse and are often groping for freedom from within freighted relationships with grandmothers and mothers. In the title story, for example, the 13-year-old narrator learns on a visit to her ailing grandmother to defy death. "" `What if one life isn't enough?' "" her grandmother suggests. "" `What if three dimensions aren't right?' "" As Cassidy O'Shea, an aging soap-opera actress in ""Our Lady of the 43 Sorrows,"" manages her brain-damaged mother's life, she recognizes that the older woman no longer has to deal with ""failed marriages, abandonments, or lies""--a fact that makes Cassidy's mother ""the happiest woman she knew."" Like the California landscape that her characters inhabit, Braverman's prose is densely layered. Each moment is charged with significance; however, the inevitable epiphanies that her characters undergo seem labored, and the generalizations that these imply too often verge on the banal. Braverman's characters have healed themselves of the maladies that made them distinctive; perhaps as a result her writing seems sadly to lack its former urgency. (Sept.)