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All My Relations

Christopher McIlroy

Publication Year: 1994

Set against the stark but seductive landscape of the American Southwest, the stories in All My Relations explore the inner landscape of mind and heart, where charting the simplest course is subject to a complex constellation of relationships. In the title story of the collection, a Pima Indian hires on with a rancher in an attempt to quit drinking and to win back the wife and son who have left him. His efforts to master land and horses and to bake the perfect cake mirror his efforts to subdue his own demons and to embrace a peaceful domesticity.

In "The Big Bang and the Good House", Tony, a former drug dealer, pits his urge toward chaos against the orderly pleasures of marriage, finally yielding to the solidity and spaciousness of domestic love: "I feel myself gathering weight, density. Cautiously, I allow myself to inhabit this Good House, which surprisingly fits like my own body". Julia, the aging protagonist of "Simplifying", risks her fragile health in a love affair; her generosity of spirit toward her lover is matched in inverse proportion by the frugality with which her lover doles out his affections. In "The March of the Toys", a young woman flees Delaware, her chronically ill father, and her grieving mother, only to find that she's traded the neediness of her family for the harrowing disturbances of her lovers. She muses, "I couldn't affect anyone's life. I could only attend it".

In "Hualapai Dread", an investment broker's infatuation with an enigmatic Hualapai Indian woman, as elusive as she is beautiful, brings out his most predatory instincts and unmasks her own deceit. Acting on similar but more destructive impulses toward the object of his sexual obsession, a character in another story takes his soon-to-be ex-wife on a bizarre "honeymoon for divorce". The close-knit family of "Builders" breaks under the strain of constructing their dream house with their own hands, and eventually they are forced to leave behind the illusion of safety and permanence: "Once the three had imagined themselves as a house on a hill, dug into stone with the tenacity of a lion. Now they sat tensely in canvas-backed chairs stretched like slingshots. They talked cautiously, with encouragement, hoping for the return of pleasure".

Embodying the transience and openness of the New West, the characters in All My Relations reinvent themselves, even as they struggle with the age-old, perilous necessity of loving.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction

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All My Relations

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pp. 1-28

When Jack Oldenburg first spoke to him, Milton Enos leaned over his paper plate, scooping beans into his mouth as if he didn't hear. Breaking through the murmur of O'odham conversation, the white man's speech was sharp and harsh. But Oldenburg stood over him, waiting...

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pp. 29-52

After visiting hours the busy noises ceased, replaced by the wheezing of therapeutic machinery, the bellows-like breaths of hospital maintenance systems, punctuated by rhythmic groans of a patient across the hall. Uniform gray light left objects distinct but without relation to each other...

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Hualapai Dread

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pp. 53-77

The Hualapai village of Alav lies at my back. The rocky path is steep. As I mount the ridge crest, a bicyclist is laboring toward me, up the other side. Though exertion makes holes of her eyes and mouth, she's beautiful, black hair tossing, skin buttery with sweat. Her bare midriff is taut...

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The March of the Toys

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pp. 78-105

It shocked me, minutes later, to see her laughing out of control, teeth bared, eyes squinted shut. Ha ha ha ha ha, she laughed, a spooky bird sound. For months after, I disregarded the moment, as if I'd been mistaken. Leah and this person couldn't be the same...

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From the Philippines

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pp. 106-119

Deirdre's Philippine snapshots were late. Every day they failed to arrive, Deirdre's friend Curtis told her, she grew dizzier. Her gray eyes glittered. Her freckled complexion flushed pink. The soft waves of her auburn hair burst into a fiercely becoming curly frame around her head...

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In a Landscape Animals Shrink to Nothing

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pp. 120-135

Olivia, shucking corn, said nothing. Hunched, her small breasts in her bikini top drooping with a weight Boehm could almost feel in his palm, she ripped the fine blonde tassels that reminded Boehm of her own hair, and dropped them into a hole in the sand. Her concentration...

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The Big Bang and the Good House

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pp. 136-155

The morning is thick enough to stir with a spoon. The tower of waffle is cold in a puddle of congealed syrup, sweet and good. My wife Annie's nightgown is open to a beauty mark on her collarbone, which she taps distractedly with a pencil. Replying to her students' journals occupies...

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pp. 156-189

The closest three weeks of the Terrys' marriage had been spent vacationing in China, when their son Marco was an infant. Euphoric new parents, Dominic and Ella were traveling in a land whose strangeness was perpetually revelatory. Trivialities such as intestinal parasites and missed...

E-ISBN-13: 9780820342856
E-ISBN-10: 0820342858
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820316024
Print-ISBN-10: 0820316024

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 1994

Series Title: Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction