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Alford, Edna.

Lantzville (B.C.), Oolichan Books, c1986. 224pp, paper, ISBN 0-88982-082-1 (cloth) $16.95, 0-88982-080-5 (paper) $9.95. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Bohdan Kinczyk

Volume 15 Number 1
1987 January

The fourteen stories in Edna Alford's second collection fall neatly into two categories: disturbing and very disturbing. If you are looking for escapist fare, look elsewhere. There are no tranquil gardens here.

Perhaps the most hopeful passage occurs in a story called 'The Bid." The protagonist, Cassie, realizes that it is "human and merciful to hide, to long for an imaginary place where the story was done, where you could protect everyone and everything within the spine of a book, confine the evil, give wings to the words of the good. Where magic was with the world again and time was one." She finds no such place, of course; in fact, she does not even have the time to dream properly of such a place. A nuclear attack is imminent.

Other stories are even more disturbing. In "The Garden of Eloise Loon," a young pregnant girl is beaten and finally abandoned by her lover. The shack in which she awaits his return is crawling with worms, tent caterpillars, actually, but everyone calls them worms. Though starving and lonely and mad, she somehow survives long enough to deliver the child. But her lover does not return. Finally, she leaves the shack and runs toward the garden of Eloise Loon. "There she laid (the baby) down among the worms. As many as she could gather in her arms, she heaped high in a black and moving mound which began to spin a canopy, a shroud, delivered him to the dark, surrounded by her own laughter and the high arc of the only sky."

Personally, I could get along just fine without stories like "Eloise Loon," but the collection does have its good moments. The first story, "Head," is a wonderful little parable about our loss of "long distance vision." The protagonist returns home to the prairies to find everything as he had left it. Except one thing. His head is not where he left it. Great story. Nor should you miss "Barbed Wire and Balloons," "The Late Date," "The Metal Detector," and "At Mrs. Warder's House."

Uneven, perhaps a little too preoccupied with madness, sometimes more disturbing than I would like, The Garden of Eloise Loon is nevertheless a worthwhile collection. The lady can write.

Bohdan Kinczyk, Central Elgin C.I., St. Thomas, Ont.
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