The stories in this prizewinning debut collection encompass train wrecks, circus acts, river journeys, transspecies transmogrification, and growing up and growing old around the small towns of Michigan.
Without glamorizing poverty, Bonnie Jo Campbell details a vision in which shabbiness, beauty, brutality, and wisdom all coexist — and yet the stories can be surprisingly optimistic, often funny.
In “Sleeping Sickness,” a twelve-year-old copes with the sexually charged atmosphere at home by carefully tending her vegetable garden. In “Bringing Home the Bones,” a farmer who prides herself on self-sufficiency must lose her leg before she can meet her estranged daughters halfway.
In “Eating Aunt Victoria,” a young woman finally looks into the face of her dead mother’s lesbian lover.
Campbell’s hard-working, sometimes hard-drinking, women protagonists are both dangerous and vulnerable, living without seat belts or televisions or the right kind of love. Not surprisingly, the children in these stories often look beyond human role models to dogs, cows, and even gorillas.