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Toronto, Women's Press, c1984. 145pp, paper, $755, ISBN 0-88961-084-3. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by donalee Moulton-Barrett

Volume 13 Number 1
1985 January

If you walk into the nearest pastry shop and ask for an assortment of sweets, some you'll like and some you won't. Such is the case with Baker's Dozen, a collection of short stories by thirteen Canadian women.

At its best, Baker's Dozen offers compelling, provocative and finely-crafted work by writers such as Betty Lambert, Debra Martens and Katherine Govier. At its worst, the material is predictable, cliche'd and about as subtle as a cake on fire. And unfortunately, in this collection, there are more ashes than cake.

At the heart of all the stories is women's role in society, and in particular their relationships with men, whether in North American or third world society. In her story "Guilt," Lambert examines a woman who goes to work in a prison when her husband leaves her for another woman. Like the men behind bars that she works with, Martha is also a prisoner, and like the other inmates Martha finds her own way to adapt, accept and ultimately alter her prison walls. The characters in this story are fleshy, human and utterly believable, unlike the stereotyped people in Frances Rooney's "Cat Fights" or Cynthia Flood's "The California Aunts." The latter stories are founded on one-dimensional characters and sentimental endings deliberately designed to tug at the heart strings, but which do not achieve empathy or understanding.

In the end, there are more disappointments than pleasant surprises in Baker's Dozen. Nonetheless, the book does give us a brief glimpse of several of this country's writers and offers us the chance to look at ourselves through the writing of Canadian feminists, even if that look is only cursory.

donalee Moulton-Barrett, Halifax, N.S.
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