cover image Blood and Milk

Blood and Milk

Sharon Solwitz. Sarabande Books, $21.95 (238pp) ISBN 978-1-889330-01-3

Women who are prickly, sharp-witted and high-strung, who tend to quip about their emotional pain and to act self-destructively, are the protagonists of the 11 fine short stories in Solwitz's first collection. Most of these women are Jewish; several are married to all-American gentiles who rarely understand the sources of their wives' restlessness and erratic behavior; some are parents of little boys who both nourish and frazzle them. Most achieve insights the hard way--after independent, even rash actions that sometimes bring pain. In ""Milk,"" Debra's knife-sharp determination to care for her twin sons prompts her to dance in a strip club called Les Girls, where she ultimately erupts in anger at all men. In ""Editing,"" Mimi forswears love after following her husband to India while he pursues his goal of becoming a guru; when she finally gets in touch with her feelings, she is ""strengthened by rage."" Dvora, a Jewish Israeli woman who foolishly chooses to accompany her husband to Baghdad, reacts with reckless spirit but finally, it can be seen, is driven mad. Because all her characters live at extremes, function at high pitch and often behave rashly, reading this collection at one sitting can be enervating. One tends to forgive Solwitz for her characters' excesses, however, because she renders them with such vitality. Solwitz is the recipient of several literary prizes, including the Dan Curley award and the Pushcart Prize. (May)