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Babylon and Other Storiesby Alix Ohlin
Synopses & Reviews
Following The Missing Person, her highly praised debut“A seriously entertaining and probing novel,” wrote The Washington Post Book WorldAlix Ohlin gives us a collection of stories that demonstrates her impressive range.
In their various locales, from Montreal (where a prosthetic leg casts a furious spell on its beholders) to the Southwest (where a Soviet-era exchange student changes a familys dynamic forever), the characters in Babylon are coming to terms with lifes epiphanies, for good or ill. They range from the very young who, confronted with their parents limitations, discover their own resolve, to those facing middle age and its particular indignities, no less determined to assert themselves and shape their destinies. A tenacious eight-year-old practices piano on paper keys; an expectant mother, settling into an idyllic farmhouse, discovers the tragic story of its previous, rightful inhabitants; and a fictional haunted hospital becomes an obsession for a ghostwriter grappling with her empty nest.
In stories at once clear-eyed and compassionate, brimming with the wit, humor, and warmth for which she has been widely acclaimed, Alix Ohlin gives us unforgettable characters enmeshed in situations both familiar and absurdall vitally engaged in the transfigurations that delineate any coming of age.
In short, a striking and assured collection from an exceptionally gifted writer.
"Ohlin's debut novel, The Missing Person (2005), featured a believably odd plot and displayed her chops in nailing contemporary idioms. The 17 stories of this collection do the same in miniature, but never quite fuse her characters and their circumstances. The title story refers to the name of the Long Island town where computer programmer Robert, 29, meets medical assistant Astrid; they begin a highly charged, highly compartmentalized relationship within a bubble of work-phone-apartment that may have a more solid foundation on its flaws than on its virtues. The opening 'King of Kohlrabi' features a typically precocious teen, Aggie, who must cope with her father's abandoning his family for his law partner, Margaret; the story pivots around her clear voice as events, beginning with a minor car accident, spin out of control. In 'I Love to Dance at Weddings,' Leda, following the death of her husband of 27 years, marries three times in succession, arousing a tangle of emotions in her son, Nick, and Nick's wife, Nathalie. Ohlin is expert in rendering the haze of alienation that hangs over all her characters' relationships and their various suburban settings. The stories read like hopeless, tightly constructed variations on unhappiness, a Babylon where communication is as impossible as it is pointless." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In a collection of short stories that are clear-eyed and compassionate, brimming with the wit, humor, and warmth for which the author is known, Ohlin introduces characters enmeshed in situations both familiar and absurd.
About the Author
Alix Ohlin was born in Montreal, graduated from Harvard University, and studied at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas. Her fiction, which has appeared in One Story and Shenandoah, among other periodicals, has been selected for both Best New American Voices 2004 and Best American Short Stories 2005. She has received awards and fellowships from The Atlantic Monthly, the MacDowell Colony, The Kenyon Reviews Writers Workshop, the Sewanee Writers Conference, and Yaddo. She lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, and teaches at Lafayette College.
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