Though Jacobsen's work is distinguished by its voluptuous verbal textures, the sumptuousness of the surface can sometimes detract from the intense power of these 20 stories. With seven books of poetry and two works of literary criticism to her credit, this third collection of her stories represents a compilation, with six new additions, from the previous A Walk with Raschid and Adios Mr. Moxley. The stories are metaphorically linked in that all the characters inhabit islands of one sort or other; physical, emotional or cultural isolations that cannot be broken. Many tales take place in exotic settings, intimations of paradise into which violence and chaos seep almost inperceptibly and then explode. A family on sabbatical in the Caribbean tries to build a friendship with their native neighbors, only to be instrumental in the death of their son. An American writer, frustrated because he cannot penetrate the cultural barrier in Guatemala, offers to buy a woodcarving from a man in the forest, but instead is the object of violence; a vacationing couple, interested in exotic birds, steps unwittingly into the inner circle of a terrifying ritual; a newly divorced woman drops a cup in a garden and becomes the focus of a native gardener's anger. In ``The Edge of the Sea,'' the protagonist says, ``At a shifting moment, just somewhere the foot cannot find the sand below, and the edge is crossed, the sea's edge, into the sea's power.'' Rendered with an artist's eye and a poet's metaphorical sense, many of Jacobsen's characters cross the edge. (June)
In a story in this collection called ``Motion of the Heart,'' a man says, ``Don't try to analyse it. . . . It happens. It's a motion--a motion of the heart.'' That phrase aptly describes all these stories, which concern the fragile connection between people: a husband and wife, a maid and her employer, a native and a tourist. All the stories are muted and low-key, dealing with riot, chaos, and murder in a quiet voice; several take place on the Caribbean island of Boudina and show the inevitable tragedies that arise from the clash of two cultures. Often giving the entirety of a life in a small, random event, such as a woman's inadvertently being locked in the bathroom, Jacobsen displays a talent for taking the minutiae of everyday life and showing what lies beneath. Jacobsen is also a poet whose most recent work is The Sisters ( LJ 6/1/87).-- Marcia Tager, Tenafly, N.J.