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Ross, Veronica.

Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1987. 93pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-655-0 (cloth) $23.95, 0-88750-656-9 (paper) $9.95.

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Anne Locatelli

Volume 15 Number 5
1987 November

Every reader likes a book that is light, easy to carry, and can be enjoyed fully in one sitting, be it on the bus or in the doctor's office.

Veronica Ross's Homecoming is just such a book. Ms. Ross is a born story teller, well practiced in this art. She has to her credit two earlier collections: Goodbye Summer (Oberon Press, c1980) and Dark Secrets (Oberon Press, c1983); many of her stories have been published in such Canadian magazines as Atlantis, Descant, and Chatelaine. Born in 1946 at Hanover, West Germany, she spent her early years in Germany and Montreal and is now married and settled in Nova Scotia. A professional writer, she served in 1982 as "writer-in-community" in south-west Nova Scotia.

"Homecoming," the first of the seven stories in this collection, deals with death and guilt. Jay had not seen his father for twelve years: unsavoury memories divided them. Suddenly Jay must go back to visit. ". . .His father died two nights later, in the middle of I the night, when there was no one there. Jay felt relief, then sadness, mourning, which r was right, now. The moment had liberated him. . ." "TheLastDayoftheCircus" tells of girlish first love and disappointment, captured masterfully and complete with contrasting ecstasy and despair. Conjugal love-hate relations are the theme of "God's Blessings" in which a low income couple pursues the dream of building their own home, not without bitterness and fights. The moods shift: "Secrets in heads, secrets in hearts, thoughts not spoken, things said you do not mean . . ." Quite different is the next story, "Anna," a sort of fairy-tale placed in the time of Queen Victoria. A country wench and a prince share an impossible love affair, but " . . .all this is supposition; it all happened so long ago or it did not happen at all. ..." Have you ever seen someone's eyes in someone else's head? This happened to Clifford in "The Eyes of the Whore," a very clever and unusual story.

Loneliness and despair are the theme of "In Leicester County": "I drink," Bruce Leicester told Helen of Troy, "because it makes me feel religious . . .In his room he drank ... he knew he would not be able to sleep. That feeling of nothingness was coming ... ." The last story, "Images," tells about adultery, with a peculiar twist.

Feelings are strong and often contrasting in all of the stories. The reader feels drawn into the narrative, even to the point of becoming part of it. Within a few cleverly written pages a stage is set, a situation developed, rich in tension and suspense until a sudden denouement changes the picture, often leading to a new understanding, a deeper insight. The element of universality provides the difference: these stories are not only good, they are great. A table of contents would have been an asset for this delightful small volume. Recommended for the Canadian collection in any library.

Anne Locatelli, Elliot Lake S.S., Elliot Lake, Ont.
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