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Veronica Ross.

Ottawa, Oberon Press, c1983.
101pp, paper, $19.95 (cloth), $9.95 (paper).
ISBN 0-88750473-6 (cloth), 0-887504744 (paper).

Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by donalee Moulton-Barrett.

Volume 11 Number 5.
1983 September.

Veronica Ross's short stories are like a fine cognac: Subtle, smooth, and powerful. And like a fine cognac Veronica Ross has improved with age. Dark Secrets proves it.

Ross's characters are multi-dimensional, full-blooded. Real. They are welcomed into the reader's comfortable realm and settle there, even though they make the realm much less comfortable. Her stories are not pleasant. They deal with the hidden hardships of life and our attempts to deny their existence, even to ourselves.

In the short story "Dark Secrets," for example, Ross spins out the tale of an abused wife and sharply, painfully, details the illusions that mask her life. Then in "An Understated Look" we are introduced to Myrna Harrison, a lonely, bored, homesick housewife who shoplifts because she can't help herself. Or perhaps because she can. Again more illusion; more secrets.

Nova Scotia, where Ross lives, is the backdrop to many of her stories and many of her protagonists are expatriate Maritimers. The sense of place and family that comes with small town living is a gentle theme that runs throughout all of Ross's work. If her characters are unhappy now, it is because they long ago discovered real happinessóback home.

I have only one objection to Dark Secrets, and it has nothing to do with quality or content. It has to do with the subtitle, New Stories. Not true. There are only eight stories in this book; five are reprints. And they're not recent reprints. '-'Whistling," for example, originally appeared in Atlantic Insight magazine in 1979. That's not a new story by Veronica Ross.

Ross is a dynamic, forceful writer. Her work comes highly recommended. The subtitle doesn't.

donalee Moulton-Barrett, Halifax, NS.
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