Results of the PEN/Faulkner Award in the year 1997.
Half the women in the world are right now in bed, theirs or somebody else’s, whether it’s night or day, whether they want to be or not…” In the title story of Gina Berriault’s latest collection, an unsure young actress watches as wrenching changes take place, row upon row, bed upon bed, in the women’s ward of a hospital where she fills in as a social worker. Finding there both kindness and harsh fate, she also discovers a reflection of her own life.
Nine new stories are included in this collection of thirty-five. All are such models of economy that they seem almost telepathic. Berriault employs her vital sensibility—sometimes subtly ironic and sometimes achingly raw—to touch on the inevitability of suffering and the nature of individuality, daring to see into the essence of our predicaments. What moves us? What dictates our behavior? What alters us? These stories illustrate Berriault’s depth of emotional understanding: the tragic loss of innocence in “The Stone Boy,” where nine-year-old Arnold accidentally kills his brother with a shotgun; the pointed wit in “God and the Article Writer” where a man is first demeaned and then elated by his submission to the people he interviews.
Ron Hansen’s deeply affecting new novel opens in winter on the high plains of Colorado, where rancher Atticus Cody receives an unexpected visit from his wayward young son. An artist and wanderer, Scott has recently settled into a life of heavy drinking and recklessness among expatriates and Mexicans in the little town of Resurreccion on the Caribbean coast. Weeks later, Atticus himself goes down to Mexico to recover the body of his son, thinking he has committed suicide. Puzzled by what he finds in Resurreccion, he begins to suspect that Scott has been murdered.
Atticus is the story of a father’s fierce love for his son, a love so steadfast and powerful that it bends the impersonal forces of destiny to its own will. As Atticus uncovers the story of his son’s death, fitting together the pieces of the mosaic that was Scott’s life in Mexico and encountering a group of disturbing characters along the way he suffers a father’s…[more]
Jamaica Kincaid’s new novel is the haunting, deeply charged story of a woman’s life on the island of Dominica. Xuela Claudette Richardson, daughter of a Carib mother and a half-Scottish, half-African father, was delivered to his laundress as an infant, bundled up like his clothes. The Autobiography of My Mother is a story of love, fear, loss, and the forging of a character, an account of one woman’s inexorable evolution evoked in startling and magical poetry.
The Book of Mercy is the story of Edmund Mueller, a retired fireman tormented by memories of his flamboyant wife, Fanny, and her disappearance from his life years ago. His son, Paul, is a missionary in Africa. His daughter, Anne, is consumed by the demands of her medical education. In his isolation, Edmund becomes fascinated with the art of alchemy, with the works of Paracelsus and Hermes Trismegistus, and the search for the Elixir of Life, which will enable him, he believes, to transmute base metals into gold. The cause of his obsession is a harrowing mystery plumbed by Anne and the resident tending him during his institutionalization. Interwoven with Edmund’s tale is that of his daughter. Abandoned by her mother while still a baby, Anne learns to take shreds of love where she can find them, from her burdened brother and distant father, then from the string of lovers she pursues. She counts on her wits and willfulness to lead her through her unexamined life. It is only when she takes up psychiatry and tries to find the heart to deal with her troubled patients that she begins to know herself and comes to understand that her life, like her father’s, has been a search for magic—a quest for the transforming power of love.
These killings were neat and professional, and Burl had to acknowledge that his appetite was largely unaffected. He ran through the local possibilities in his mind: the kitchen at Terrell’s would be closed by now, Ho Sai Gai was closed for sure, he was never really welcome at the Chateau, and fast food was hateful to him, if for no other reason than the uniformity and skimpiness of the seating, which seemed such an apt metaphor for the whole experience. He’d been stuck once in one of those neocolonial swivel chairs that are attached to the plastic tables at McDonald’s. He could cook—Burl liked to cook—but there was nothing in the house on the scale of what he’d promised himself, and anyway, it was exhausting to consider at this hour. His lower back, often sore by this time of day, radiated protest at the very thought. He waited behind a narcotized-sounding pregnant woman who spoke with excruciating slowness about the arrest of someone named Jimmy, and when she was finally finished with the phone he deposited a quarter and called Sally, whom he loved.