Synopses & Reviews
The twelve stories in Kate Blackwells debut collection illuminate the lives of men and women who appear as unremarkable as your next-door-neighbor until their lives explode quietly on the page. Her wry, often darkly funny voice describes the repressed underside of a range of middle-class characters living in the South. Blackwells focus is elementalon marriage, birth, death, and the entanglements of love at all agesbut her gift is to shine a light on these universal situations with such lucidity, it is as if one has never seen them before.
In My First Wedding,” a twelve-year-old girl attends her cousins Deep South wedding, where she discovers both mystery and disillusionment and, in the end, finds shes not immune to her familys myth of romantic love. In Heartbeatland,” when a young womans husband dies suddenly, she refuses to sell his Jeep to an importuning gay neighbor. The more she clings to the Jeepand to the memory of her beloved Davidthe more he becomes someone she doesnt recognize. In Queen of the May,” a former belle looks for ways to assuage her loneliness in her large new house in the empty Carolina sandhills.
"Blackwell's debut collection vividly draws on the Southern storytelling tradition in its 12 gentle but unsentimental stories. In 'My First Wedding,' an unnamed narrator remembers her first peek at the rituals of Southern bridehood when her cousin Augusta married a Yankee. 'Heartbeatland' is Anne Tyler territory: Anne and David, transplants to North Carolina who call themselves 'the Schoolmaster' and 'Princess Annabel,' develop sarcastic nicknames for their neighbors, but when David dies, Anne finds herself simultaneously relying on and distrusting the 'neigh-boors.' Blackwell illustrates her stories with sharp and sometimes unsettling word snapshots: a past-its-prime piata disgorges 'misshapen' candy 'mottled with mold'; a miserably pregnant woman plods 'around the garden, holding her enormous stomach, her legs like an elephant's.' Even 'Pepper Hunt,' a disturbing five-page story about a divorced man and his daughter meeting in a luncheonette, is a pinpoint novella with fully drawn characters. If Blackwell has one unifying theme, it's how ritual both distances people and enables them to live together. This shrewd collection should appeal to fans of contemporary Southern short story masters like Tim Gautreaux and John Biguenet. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"These are necessary stories, which often possess a quality of devastating clarity all too infrequent in short fiction. Each is a rare entre into the ordinary everyday world without the added special effects of all-consuming tragedy. This collection is prime proof that there is nothing, nothing like a collection of short stories to offer an almost Cubist perspective on the way women live." Cynthia Shearer
"You most definitely will remember this extraordinary collection. All of Blackwell's finely crafted stories move as easily as an overheard conversation about what is too often hushed in the human heart." Robert Bausch
"Kate Blackwell is a wonderful and very perceptive writer who knows more about love, and more about loss, than most of us ever will. These stories about all sorts of Southern men and women are both funny and sad, and always subtly but deeply sympathetic." Alison Lurie
"Throughout this fine first collection, there is a fascinating tension between limpid prose and incisive truth. Kate Blackwell tends to deal with secrets an unfulfilled desire, a denied knowledge, a hidden love. She writes with especial power and insight about the parts of themselves women give up or bury when they marry." Joyce Johnson
The twelve stories in Kate Blackwell's debut collection illuminate the lives of men and women who appear as unremarkable as your next-door-neighbor until their lives explode quietly on the page. Her wry, often darkly funny voice describes the repressed underside of a range of middle-class characters living in the South.
About the Author
Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Kate Blackwell is a former journalist. She now writes fiction and teaches writing at The Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Her stories have appeared in many venues, including Prairie Schooner, New Letters, and The Greensboro Review, as well as in several anthologies. She lives in Washington, D.C.