The stories in this prizewinning debut collection encompass train wrecks, circus acts, river journeys, transspecies transmogrification, and growing up and growing old around the small towns of Michigan. Without glamorizing poverty, Bonnie Jo Campbell details a vision in which shabbiness, beauty, brutality, and wisdom all coexist -- and yet the ...
The stories in this prizewinning debut collection encompass train wrecks, circus acts, river journeys, transspecies transmogrification, and growing up and growing old around the small towns of Michigan. Without glamorizing poverty, Bonnie Jo Campbell details a vision in which shabbiness, beauty, brutality, and wisdom all coexist -- and yet the stories can be surprisingly optimistic, often funny. In Sleeping Sickness, a twelve-year-old copes with the sexually charged atmosphere at home by carefully tending her vegetable garden. In Bringing Home the Bones, a farmer who prides herself on self-sufficiency must lose her leg before she can meet her estranged daughters halfway. In Eating Aunt Victoria, a young woman finally looks into the face of her dead mother's lesbian lover. Campbell's hard-working, sometimes hard-drinking, women protagonists are both dangerous and vulnerable, living without seat belts or televisions or the right kind of love. Not surprisingly, the children in these stories often look beyond human role models to dogs, cows, and even gorillas.
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Publishers Weekly, 1999-10-04 The 16 stories in this bold and eloquent debut collection feature women from Michigan's Lower Peninsula who bite, claw, flee from danger and follow their instincts, revealing their untamed inner selves. In "Circus Matinee," an escaped tiger stalks Big Joanie as she distributes snow cones to a circus audience. Several stories juxtapose the beautiful and the grotesque. In one, a local beauty contemplates a future with "The Smallest Man in the World"; in "Eating Aunt Victoria," a teenage girl and her brother come to terms with their late mother's gruff lesbian lover; in "The Perfect Lawn," an adolescent boy obsessed with a cheerleader also finds room in his fantasies to include her alcoholic, desperate mother. Campbell portrays misfits in middle America's economic and social fringe with subtle irony, rich imagery and loving familiarity, describing domestic worlds where Martha Stewart would fear to tread. In "Bringing Home the Bones," a Holocaust survivor and farmer's widow scalds herself badly while canning beans, and ends up losing her leg, the accident causing her to rekindle her relationship with her two daughters. Campbell's protagonists are hard on themselves, but sympathy is often forthcoming from unexpected sources. The young protagonist of "The Fishing Dog" depends on the men she meets to care for her, and it is her good fortune to fall in with a gentle, patient fellow who welcomes her to his riverside fishing shack. In another tale, a junior high school girl learns to negotiate her new pride, vulnerability and exhibitionism, all rapidly developing alongside her voluptuous body. Campbell's determined, eccentric, painfully and beautifully human heroines, many of them young or poor, are touching even as they consistently remind the reader of their unpredictable, durable ferocity. (Nov.) FYI: This collection won the AWP (Associated Writing Programs) Award for Short Fiction. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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