A Private State : Stories

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PW Reviews 1997 September #5

A consistent, sure voice and recurring images (uncontrolled dogs, uncommunicative sisters, unhinged minds, unorthodox Thanksgivings) unite these 11 stories, which range more freely across geography than across thematic boundaries. Most are coming-of-age tales, with the exception of two of the most powerful, "Open Season" and the title story. In the former, reminiscent of Ellen Gilchrist's work, a 10-year-old girl and her family travel on Thanksgiving to the Maryland estate of "the Laird," as her unemployed father refers to his overbearing Scottish father-in-law. In the latter, a 14-year-old girl takes a private vow of silence when she moves to the "very private state" of Maine. A pregnant Bostonian goes whale-watching in the collection's best story, "Pacific." The whales' migration a and the directionlessness of the beached whales prove instructional for the unmarried woman and, by a kind of suggestion, for the single pregnant woman in "Monsoon," another entry here. The loops of meaning coil from story to story, creating a memorable whole that transcends the sum of its parts. (Nov.) FYI: Bacon won the 1996 Associated Writing Programs Award for Short Fiction. "Live Free or Die," a story in this collection, won the 1996 Pirate's Alley/Faulkner Society Award for Best Short Story. Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews