Poetry Madness

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007
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Yes, Yes, Cherries: Stories

by Mary Otis

Love Bites

A review by John Burgman

The characters in Mary Otis's debut story collection, Yes, Yes, Cherries, operate in a gray space between blissful connection and utter detachment. Love, adolescence, divorce, and infidelity keep them floating. Everyone is almost happy, but not unhappy either. In "Pilgrim Girl," teenage Allison is smitten with her older, increasingly creepy, married neighbor who drives her to school. That ride leads to lunch, and that lunch leads to tender moments behind the dumpster of Cappy's Clam Shack.

Otis's sometimes-connected stories work best when her characters demonstrate quirky acts of desperation: A divorced couple's biting sarcasm turns to actual biting, and another couple finds that while having an affair in a hotel feels odd, having the affair on a kitchen counter is feels just fine. Likewise, the stories that lack those peculiar moments -- like "Unstruck" and "Welcome to Yosemite" -- bring the collection down.

Still, Yes, Yes, Cherries offers an intriguing batch of imperfect characters and unstable conditions. Otis has a sharp eye for people's habits. She knows how to draw flawed relationships. And under her guidance, hearing about the agony of lust and love never gets old. Of course, it's always more fun when it's happening to someone else.

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