Where the Road Bottoms Out: Stories

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Where the Road Bottoms Out delivers us to the scenes of a young woman's battles against the various forces that would rob her of her freedom - the relations that define her apart from how she would define herself. These are stories of what it means to be embedded in the multiform drama of parent and child: here a mother buries her children; there daughters watch grieving fathers and fathers scamming. Punctuated by dislocation and loss, this drama often turns on the inevitable moment that intimacy and love overlap...
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New York 1995 Hard cover 1st ed. In mylar cover, shows light rub wear. 171 p.; 22 cm. -92-

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Overview

Where the Road Bottoms Out delivers us to the scenes of a young woman's battles against the various forces that would rob her of her freedom - the relations that define her apart from how she would define herself. These are stories of what it means to be embedded in the multiform drama of parent and child: here a mother buries her children; there daughters watch grieving fathers and fathers scamming. Punctuated by dislocation and loss, this drama often turns on the inevitable moment that intimacy and love overlap with something that feels like violence, or at the point when a new kind of awareness is achieved as the solitary voice of one daughter dissolves into a "we" of sisters. Redel's charged and lyrical fictions enact a movement both away from a life and toward taking possession of a life. Over mountains, from hotel to hotel, in cars, on foot, we follow her determined journey to record her adventures as a first-generation American and as a writer of English prose.

These 16 stories create a sort of stadium wherein the reader watches its rambunctious author battle the various impediments that rob a woman of her freedom--the relations that define her apart from how she would define herself. These stories seek to determine what it is to be a daughter, a wife, a mother--indeed, a woman. A striking debut.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Redel's stories connect locations on past and present emotional maps as she relates tales of family life among Russian immigrants and their American-born children. The perspectives are mostly those of mothers and daughters; the prose is bare-bones and dark-edged. Sometimes Redel seems to be straining to shock or to impress, or to be poignant. In ``My Little Pledge of Us,'' she writes of a trio of first-generation American sisters bewildered by the insecurities of their father, who says they will never be Americans. One of them protests, ``We have no accents. We eat burgers with catsup, dogs with mustard.... One sister watches for interest rates to plunge.'' Redel writes with great rhythm and force, however, particularly when fitting her language to anger, as in ``Avenge! Avenge!,'' in which Wall Street traders swap some verbal swagger worthy of David Mamet: ``You don't have to have a life worth a dime for some smartass to make a dime on it. You don't have to be nothing to make something out of a bunch of nothing assholes willing to crap away their lives hoping to become bigger assholes.'' While the decibel level of the writing is sometimes too high for these 17 small stories, Redel has an intriguing, yeasty voice. (May)
Library Journal
There is a symbiosis between these three volumes of short stories. Each deals with the experience of being a woman, touching on the complexity of the mother-daughter relationship and exploring connections and limitations in women's lives. The stories are differentiated by the authors' style and approach. Agee's collection is part of the "Coffee-To-Go Short-Short Story" series. Indeed, some of the stories are extremely shortonly one page. They are more appropriately vignettes, or fleeting impressions, and the writing style is stream of consciousness. Many of the stories feature an undercurrent of violence, and none is particularly upbeat. Three of Agee's books have been judged Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, and this one demonstrates the same fine quality. Similar in style to Agee's book, Redel's first collection comprises 16 stories. Her stories tend to be a little longer but again focus on women's issues. "A Day in the Park" portrays a mother covering her two sons with leaves and twigs and bedding down in the park for the night, not unlike animals. This tale is oddly moving, but others tend to be challenging as they have no discernible plots. Redel's book is not an easy, relaxing read. Unlike these two volumes, Lorenzo's contains nine longer stories. Lorenzo creates a rich atmosphere and weaves a plot into each of the tales. They are beautifully written accounts of women grappling with difficult choices, the consequences of biology, and their (sometimes philandering) men. Lorenzo won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction for the title story of this collection. All three collections are recommended for general readers.Kimberly G. Allen, MCI Corporate Information Resources Ctr., Washington, D.C.
Kathleen Hughes
This collection of brief, imaginative stories runs the gamut of the female experience. Whether the narrator is mother, wife, daughter, or grandmother, the stories are both startling and refreshing. In "Service Servic Servi," a woman is convinced that her new maid is really Eva Braun. In "My Little Pledge of Us," three sisters continuously astonish their immigrant parents with their new, bold American ways. Also about a family of sisters, "Floaters" tells of a con man and his daughters who spend their afternoons lazing in motel swimming pools. Redel skillfully alternates between biting wit and moody urgency to set the tone of her stories and to explore the issues of love, family, and identity that are lurking there. Enjoyable to read, the 16 curious tales in this book make for an impressive debut.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679420712
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/2/1995
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 171
  • Product dimensions: 5.23 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Victoria Redel was educated at Dartmouth College and Columbia University. She lives and teaches in New York City.
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Table of Contents

Where the Road Bottoms Out 1
My Little Pledge of Us 11
A Day in the Park 37
Floaters 49
Motherland 61
In the North House 69
Boxcar 81
Cable Work 89
Soul to Take 97
Wool 105
Ruby, Darwin, Eurydice 117
China 123
Avenge! Avenge! 135
See the Dog 145
Service Servic Servi 153
Mender of the House and of Other Modest Objects 165
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