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collection's narratives generally treat plausible but quirky scenarios with uncommon originality. They unfold in a variety of settings: "The Prescription ," for instance, occurs in Turkey during the epoch of the Ottoman Empire, while the melancholy and comedie "The Means of Escape" is set in an English parish. The story, in which three characters pursue freedom from prisons both literal and socioeconomic, offers insights into class, friendship, romance and, in the end, literature itself. Such complexity is the hallmark of this collection; for instance, "The Red-Hair Girl," set in nineteenthcentury Brittany, is one part exploration of the relationship between the sexes, one part skewering ofartistic contrivance. Another story with an artist at its center, "Beehernz," is the story of a music festival director 's ill-advised attempt to lure the eponymous, reclusive conductor into leading a concert performance. As in the other stories included in The Means ofEscape, "Beehernz" displays an exquisitely rendered realism that manages to be simultaneously believable and dreamlike. Although the stories are excellent, one wishes they had been packaged differently, with the date of each story's first publication. An introduction is also in order to provide a look at Fitzgerald's life and distinctive art. (KN) Disobedience by Jane Hamilton Doubleday, 2000, 272 pp., $24.95 Jane Hamilton's latest novel, Disobedience, is about adultery in the twenty-first century, when e-mail and technology can aid in keeping secrets. Only seventeen-year-old Henry Shaw knows about his mother's affair with a Ukrainian violin-maker, Richard Polloco; he discovers her infidelity after accidentally logging onto the e-mail account he created for her. Henry obsessively keeps track of his mother, Beth, and her secret life while exploring his own feelings about love and passion. Henry's account of his mother's involvement is related ten years after the affair, but at times it is difficult to distinguish between his present feelings and his past ones. Hamilton does a commendablejob of creating a disillusioned, sensitive teenage boy, yet we sometimes feel that he is too mature and knows too much—a problem that stems from Hamilton's decision to have Henry narrate the story from a more mature perspective . Nevertheless, it is interesting to see how a son can be both drawn to and repelled by his mother's infidelity . The other half of the Shaw family is oblivious to Beth's affair. Henry's father, Kevin, is a history teacher with socialist views who is too selfabsorbed and concerned about the effects of block scheduling at the high school to see what is happening to his family. Henry's younger sister, Elvira, is a thirteen-year-old with a passionate love for Civil War reenactments . The two are so involved with their own lives that it never occurs to them to question Beth whenever she leaves on a train to go see her paramour. As a pianist specializing in antique music, Beth manages to create an excuse for her weekend excursions by claiming to 176 · The Missouri Review be involved in a newly created duo with the violin-maker. Henry's retrospective narration, which describes a family still intact, makes it evident that Beth never leaves in search of a different life. Readers will keep reading to see why she stays and how her secret affects the family, especially Henry. History is a dominant theme in the novel and is a preoccupation that the Shaws all have in common. One of the major incidents in the story occurs during a family trip to Shiloh to watch a Civil War reenactment in which Elvira is participating. Comparing his adulterous mother to General Robert E. Lee, Henry decides that both were suffering from "ambiguous loyalty." In the end, Hamilton uses history to unite the Shaws in an intriguing and haunting way. Disobedience may not win as many fans as Hamilton's two Oprah Book Club selections, The Book ofRuth and A Map of the World. Nevertheless, Hamilton writes compellingly about loyalty and familial bonds. (MS) The Question ofBruno by Aleksandar Hemon Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2000, 230 pp., $22.95 Living in Chicago, Bosnian Jozef Pronek constantly encounters people who do not understand the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 176-177
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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