cover image Instinct for Bliss

Instinct for Bliss

Melissa Pritchard. Zoland Books, $20.95 (159pp) ISBN 978-0-944072-49-3

In 12 stories previously published in the Paris Review and other journals, Pritchard explores the efforts of a cast of troubled, mostly Southwestern, middle-class characters to satisfy an ``instinct'' for salvation. These heady, occasionally contrived, pieces pivot on questions of both Christian and non-Western spirituality as well as the lawlessness of the creative spirit. ``Eating for Theodora'' tells of an anorexic adolescent who finds the will to eat only through the intervention of her earthy, mystical Latina neighbor. ``The Good and Faithful Widow'' is a lonely woman's cerebral, self-analytical account of her anxious relationship with her 14-year-old daughter. In the title story, an idealistic divorcee takes her teenaged daughter-whose ``slide from innocence'' includes a tattoo, a shaved head and an arrest for shoplifting-to a weaving workshop for women on a Navajo reservation. Pritchard's prose ranges from the simple to the baroque, with her more precious passages (``In a dark cheat of sleep, their incorrupt, guileless hunger lifts Saint Teresa in a minor elevation above the dancer's arching spine, splitting, radiant, into wings'') often less stirring than understated ones. Always, though, Pritchard holds the reader's interest as she strives to evoke the complexities of the ineffable. (Sept.)