cover image For You, for You I Am Trilling These Songs

For You, for You I Am Trilling These Songs

Kathleen Rooney, . . Counterpoint, $24 (245pp) ISBN 978-1-58243-545-9

In this smart, subtly honed set of 11 autobiographical essays, Rooney, a 20-something Chicago native, teacher of writing, and U.S. Senate aide, seems poised for a really good revelation but never quite delivers. Riffing on subjects as diverse as getting a Brazilian bikini wax on the eve of her marriage (“a huge gender betrayal” for this self-described feminist); making a pilgrimage to the sites inhabited by a favorite poet, Weldon Kees, in New York City; and feeling pleased by the flirtations of her students at a small religious college in Washington State, the author chronicles the years of her early professional youth as she and her novelist husband move from job to job, from Chicago to Tacoma, Wash., and back. Rooney is well read and has a wily, understated style, as she describes her Christian parents; trying to teach her younger Senate interns how to execute metaphors and good manners; and resisting the urge to go from being a “fun-time happy party girl” drinking with guy friends at McSorley's Ale House in New York City to being a “total bitch” when having to complain of a man's drunken importunate groping. The last, and most substantial, essay, involving her cousin Jennifer's decision to become a nun, underscores the author's overall longing to attain a validated life, rooted in mission and meaning. But in the end, the essays leave the reader hungry for more substance. (Jan.)