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A teacher of creative writing at Vermont College and a Los Angeles native, Lefer is fearless in her compass, folding a huge map of America into small, sharp observations of the intimate lives of those dispossessed of their faith in the future. Though her imaginative leaps are confident, and her intelligence obvious, the cumulative experience of the collection is somewhat reductive, like having the same earnest conversation with a series of identical strangers at a party. Stories wander and collapse into fleeting, inconsequential gestures of isolating fatigue, denying the reader a sense of engagement, of narrative pulse. Aptly, the most vivid pieces come from first-person narrators, giving a spark of immediacy that is welcome. It is a witty poetry that knows it suffers from too much self-awareness. "My heart slapped along with the windshield wipers, making ambient contact but no headway," he says, driving through a fog of Valium, scotch, and oppressive gray skies the color of cardboard, only then seeing a flock of geese turning into a spiral of black smoke.
It's the kind of arresting moment of unearned beauty that summarizes the book, where desire and loss unspool together.
|Mr. Norton's Wart Hog||41|
|Her Own Hands||78|
|Strange Physical Sensations in the Heartland||115|
|Keys to the Kingdom||131|