At the Owl Woman Saloon

At the Owl Woman Saloon

by Tess Gallagher

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set primarily in the Pacific Northwest, this enchanting collection of 16 occasionally interconnected stories by poet Gallagher (The Lover of Horses and Other Stories) is enlivened by an assortment of beguiling characters. "To Dream of Bears" features an opera-loving logger who stuffs his duplicitous wife's clothes in a freezer. Gallagher, wife of the late Raymond Carver, excels at capturing apt, unexpected defining moments. In "The Leper," a woman counsels a suicidal friend on the phone as strangely foreboding deliveriesa pot full of lilies, a casserolearrive at her house. "A Box of Rocks" is the most emotionally powerful story here. Devastated when the niece they have been raising abruptly returns to her mother, an anguished couple answers a request to mail the child's things by sending a box of rocks. Other stories depict fractured lives coming back together: asked for her husband's address, a widow in "Coming and Going" supplies directions to the cemeteryachieving a sense of control for the first time since his death. Throughout, Gallagher's use of precise detail to convey incremental revelations about her characters resonates with the reader. Her insight into the healing moments in ordinary lives is both subtle and extraordinary. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In these stories, which provide a strong vision of the American West, Gallagher guides readers through the lives of loggers, housewives, hairdressers, storytellers, and innocent grocery shoppers. The glimpses are brief, but each story takes us to a special place and offers a unique point of view. As one of Gallagher's characters recollects, "Each of us is in fact the Buddha," and if we would realize this, "we would all treat each other with dignity"which seems to be the author's approach toward her characters as well. Gallagher is perhaps best known as a poet (e.g., Moon Crossing Bridge, LJ 3/15/92), which shows in her concise, vivid language. Recommended for larger public libraries.Shannon Williams Haddock, Bellsouth Corporate Lib. & Bus. Research Ctr., Birmingham, Ala.
Kirkus Reviews
A solid, if sometimes conventional, second collection (after The Lover of Horses, 1986) by poet Gallagher. The 16 tales here are alive with intriguing characterizations, though several suffer from listless plots and excessive detail.

Many of the pieces focus on the emotional repercussions of losing a loved one (Gallagher was married to Raymond Carver). In the amusing "My Gun," a recent widow is forced to deal with hitherto unexpected elements in her husband's past. Her droll meditations on whether or not to buy a gun for protection are interwoven with her narrative of shocked discoveries. Another quirky tale on the nature of widowhood, "Mr. Woodriff's Neckties," describes the mannerly relationship between Mr. Woodriff, a famous novelist dying of cancer, and his next-door neighbor, whose wife also has the disease. Told with sweetness and a pragmatic attitude toward life and death, the story revolves around the small acts of kindness between the two men (like when the neighbor knots a tie for Mr. Woodriff, who never learned how), deftly probing the nature of charity. "Rain Flooding Your Campfire" offers a clever play on narrative consistency when the narrator's version of events (the visit of recently widowed friend Norman) challenges Mr. G's story. She and Mr. G work together at the gas company, though Mr. G is actually a failed novelist, looking for material from wherever he can find it, so that Norman, who is blind, offers great grist for Mr. G`s mill. Outshining Mr. G`s quirkiness is "The Poetry Baron" (as he likes to think of himself)—a middle-aged English professor with Napoleonic delusions and the quintessential roving eye. Many of the stories are distinguished by a meditative, sometimes somber, humor.

A worthwhile collection, then, with a few failed tales, focusing on the simple patterns and complex relationships of everyday life.

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5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

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