cover image Happiness


Marjorie Agosin, Isabel Allende. White Pine Press (NY), $14 (238pp) ISBN 978-1-877727-34-4

In these fantastical stories Chilean-born poet Agosin ( Sargasso ) weaves strange and beautiful images of hair, water, food and darkness. However, deft writing alone cannot anchor and balance this frustrating collection; the brevity of the pieces makes any sort of richer and fuller understanding a difficult task. The protagonists of the 44 stories are all women; through sheer numbers the author does capture certain rhythms and patterns of female life. But an explicit connection between these heroines and their lives is needed and never made, as in the story of a woman with an ``undulating mane'' who develops a bizarre obsession with hair. A number of the stories dealing with childhood and memory are more successful. In one a woman recalls her nanny of long ago, who told stories by the fireside and wrote mysterious letters that she never mailed; the tale's direct emotions are more captivating than the most fanciful imagery. In another story Agosin draws on her own Eastern European Jewish background to describe a young girl's fascination with the forbidden Mass and Eucharist and the fear and confusion this causes in her family. (Feb.)