Kerry Neville Bakken, . . BkMk Press at the Univ. of Missouri?Kansas City, $15.95 (200pp) ISBN 978-1-886157-56-9
Death, birth and the complications of both are the threads running through Bakken's debut story collection. In "The Effects of Light," Jack and his soon-to-be–ex-wife travel to Greece seeking closure after his sister Kate's suicide. Jack, all his life the "brother-knight charged with [Kate's] safekeeping," must learn how to carry on when the burden of caring for her has been lifted. In "Eggs," Annie and Noah, anxious to start a family, suffer through months of "unreproductive sex" and fertility treatments while Annie's friend gets and remains pregnant just long enough to abort. The title story centers on the impending birth of Mike and Gwen's daughter; Mike feels neglected as Gwen shares a bond with their unborn child that he can't share. His alienation is further compounded when he decides to help a troubled teenager in his English class who pours out her self-destructive longings in a class journal. Mike finds himself unsure of how to contend with the implications of his good intentions and wonders how he will cope with parenting. Bakken's quiet exploration of life's bookends makes for an auspicious first outing.
Reviewed on: 04/24/2006