Sheila Ballantyne Life on Earth

ISBN 13: 9781416583424

Life on Earth

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9781416583424: Life on Earth

A collection of twelve stories explores the themes of family, contemporary life, loss, recovery, and compromised expectations, and includes the O. Henry Prize-winning tale "Perpetual Care"

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From Publishers Weekly:

Some of the characters and situations of Ballantyne's unforgettable novel Imaginary Crimes turn up again in this collection of 10 stories. The narrator's mother, who died young, and her feckless and neglectful father, who disappeared on a mining trip and whose bones were found five years later, again haunt three of these tales. "Perpetual Care" is a zinger, with unforgettable scenes such as the one in which the narrator dances down the deserted, Muzak-filled halls of a mausoleum-columbarium outside of Reno. This story has the mordant humor characteristic of Ballantyne at her best. But "UntitledInk on Paper," dealing with the same events, is maddeningly opaque. Three narratives set in Miami also involve cemeteries and columbariums. Ballantyne focuses almost exclusively on the fragility of life: on the cruel diminutions of old age and the sudden tragedies that can happen even to those who thought there were plenty of years left. The leitmotif, expressed in "A Letter to John Lennon," is that the best one can do is try to "make it through" a too short and sadly imperfect existence. There is a constant undercurrent of pain, especially in the three vignettes dealing with a middle-aged man in the grip of a profoundly debilitating disease and his wife, the narrator, who in "Letters to the Darkness" mystically shares the cold chills that wrack his body and symbolize his death in life. Perhaps these stories were a catharsis for Ballantyne, but the monomatic, obsessive focus on illness and death diminishes the collection's impact.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

Author of such novels as Norma Jean the Termite Queen , Ballantyne here presents 12 stories. Very simply put, the plot of many is "we are born, we live, we die," but Ballantyne bores beneath this stark proposition with great skill. In the opening stories, full of black, absurdist humor, a woman hears from the cemetery that her mother's grave is unmarked; she then learns that her father has died and been cremated. Now she wonders whether she should reunite her parents by burying her father's ashes in her mother's grave. Throughout we feel her desperate attempt to come to terms with the deprivation she has always felt. Abandoning humor, the final stories deal directly with impending death. Ballantyne is an insightful writer whose themes may be sad but whose stories are ultimately affirmative. Marcia Tager, Tenafly, N.J.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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