cover image The Stuntman's Daughter and Other Stories

The Stuntman's Daughter and Other Stories

Alice Blanchard. University of North Texas Press, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-57441-009-9

It's easy to see why judge Rick De Marinis awarded this breathtaking collection of 11 stories the Katherine Anne Porter prize. The prose is confiding, the dialogue familiar, which gives Blanchard's stories an intimate everyday-ness that makes her family narratives disturbing and affecting. In ""Claybottom Lake,"" a new stepfather struggles to win the acceptance of his wife's tomboy daughter. It's a poignant portrayal of one of life's most difficult adjustments and a showcase for the author's skill: ""Nola is a tomboy, a hell-raiser, a maverick, and she's captured my heart like no other. She's got the broad choppy legs of an athletic boy and the scowl of an old maid.... She stands in the sunlight, an amber specimen in a glass jar, still as an Indian or a stone."" Leona, the 13-year-old daughter of a stuntman in the title story, is a prisoner of her mother's neglect and her stepfather's sexual abuse as she wages a daily battle for survival in a small camper trailer. ""I lie in Mama's bed awhile, inhaling her sweet scent, but Ty is also here-his spicy smell, curly-rooted black hairs clinging to the white sheets."" Among the situations beautifully explored by Blanchard: a tale of lesbian violence; the last days of a proud father; the anguish of parents reconciling themselves to the future of their daughter with Down's Syndrome; and young sisters ruining their mother's chances for romance. Spinning webs of fragile domestic intricacies, Blanchard uses humor, but it's always tempered by the harsh dank air in which family ties unravel. (June)