cover image LUCKY STRIKE


Nancy Zafris, . . Unbridled, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-1-932961-04-1

With its cast of quirky Ohio scrap-metal workers, Zafris's first novel, The Metal Shredders (2002), revealed her talent for capturing an unfamiliar world; her second accomplishes a similar feat with uranium prospectors in Utah. It's 1954, and widowed Jean Waterman has brought her two children west, hoping that the desert air will soothe the weak lungs of her son, Charlie, and that the desert's soil will yield treasures of uranium. She meets Harry, an ex-Mormon traveling salesman who deals in Geiger counters and other prospecting paraphernalia; Jo Dawson, the girlish wife of a good-for-nothing lout determined to spend his last pennies in a quest for uranium; Miss Dazzle, the "people person" proprietress of the Stagecoach Oasis motel and a host of colorful folk. In the lonely Utah desert, the wanderers form an unlikely family; there are loves, loyalties and secrets, though nothing much happens. Harry falls in love with Jean and Jo and worries that polygamy is in his genes; Miss Dazzle's cheerful personality hides a deeper loneliness. In this lovely book, Zafris finds power in the slow, mute strangeness of everyday anxiety, the blossoming of hope in a barren desert and the terrible irony of what uranium means to those who seek it. (Apr.)