Sarah's Laughter And Other Stories

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9780394585567: Sarah's Laughter And Other Stories
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A novella and five stories feature characters experiencing the transcendent moments that deepen their self-awareness and intensify their relationships

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A dozen insightful paragraphs manage to save this novella and five short stories from an otherwise fatal lack of drama-- disappointingly flat fiction by the author of A Stay By the River (1985) and Pastorale (1982). Engberg's fascination with life's moments of quiet desperation informs all the tales in this collection in one way or another-- from the opening novella, ``Sarah's Laughter,'' which portrays a retired book reviewer's feeble attempts to resist the overtures of his former wife; through a young girl's confusion in ``On the Late Bus'' as she journeys from the home of her self-absorbed father to that of her neglectful mother; and a waitress's irrational fear in ``The Dead Also Eat'' when a bag lady occupies one of her tables every afternoon for a week. In evoking characters on the brink of developmental change, struggling to cope with the present using inadequate tools from the past, the author is in her element. The results are a few truly memorable scenes: a junior-high-school teacher's astonishment in ``Afternoons, Corridors'' when her overachieving best friend describes a mystical vision she experienced years before; the utter relief the aging hero of ``Sarah's Laughter'' feels when his daughter tells him he can will a disturbed and frightening neighbor to disappear; a middle-aged woman's realization that her grown son has fallen in love. Such honest insights make the frequent long, lifeless passages all the more disappointing--as do the often abrupt endings that occur just as an emotional connection has finally been made. Uneven work by a gifted author. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Engberg ( Pastorale ) makes readers care deeply about her characters in these six sensitive, beautifully crafted stories. In the title novella, a retired newspaperman makes peace with his ex-wife who walked out on him 20 years ago. Belatedly awakening to life, he copes with his unmarried, pregnant daughter and mentally unbalanced next-door neighbor, less than half his age, who has a mad crush on him. "I tell myself that small acts do add up to a world," says the menopausal mother in "Smart Baby." Her vivid, recurring dreams about nursing babies are perhaps symbolic of her relationship with her self-absorbed, TV-addicted husband and with a newly divorced, supercilious, alcoholic friend to whom she gave tea and sympathy. "On the Late Bus" is a kinetic portrait of an adolescent girl shoved aside by her divorced parents and their new mates. The jumpy waitress in "The Dead Also Eat" will be instantly recognizable to any reader who has ever tried to juggle the daily grind with a personal life headed nowhere.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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