cover image Working Women and Other Stories

Working Women and Other Stories

Tricia Bauer, Porter Manuals. Bridge Works Publishing Company, $19.95 (204pp) ISBN 978-1-882593-11-8

Sometimes too cryptic and sometimes too obvious, this debut collection of short stories nevertheless shows mastery of the form. Set in a number of East Coast locales, these 14 pieces do not reflect regional color or character, but rather set forth accounts of ordinary, anyplace lives that are occasionally interrupted by a fresh peculiarity. The standout is ``The Graveyard,'' in which the aging Darla tests the tolerance of passersby and her husband by flooding her front yard with tacky lawn ornaments, as if each statue marked something lost to her: her daughters, her neighbors, her education. ``Visiting Hours'' is a funny, poignant tale: the narrator writes newspaper obituaries with such accuracy that she wins the gratitude of all the town's funeral directors. ``Working Women'' is a fine piece, but the ending is frustratingly ambiguous. Taken as a whole, the collection holds together through recurring characters (in ``Beds'' and ``Dogs'') as well as such themes as transformation (``Dancing with the Movies,'' ``Panama''), estrangement (``Nocturne,'' ``The Blue Room'') and autonomy (``Pot o' Gold,'' ``Fortunes''). The voice in these thought-provoking stories is sweet--but not saccharine.