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II SKr 77ie Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood Doubleday, 2000, 521 pp., $26 MargaretAtwood's latest novel, 77? Blind Assassin, is a mesmerizing tale of the Chase family. The multigenerational story of power, wealth, love and secrecy features a story within a story within a story, where each layer carefully unfolds, revealing the truth about the Chase family. Atwood moves freely between the three plot lines, beginning with Iris Chase, the elderly narrator, who tells her family history, leading up to hersister Laura's suicide. Laura's death has already been revealed by the novel's haunting opening: "Ten days after the war sister Laura drove a car off a bridge." Iris' narrative is intermingled with newspaper cUppings and chapters of Laura's posthumously published novel, also titled The Blind Assassin, in which two young lovers, a wealthy woman of high society and a poUtical rebel on the run, engage in a clandestine love affair. The unnamed lovers meet in seedy hotels and borrowed apartments, where they teU stories in between their bouts of lovemaking, creating the third plot line, a science fiction tale about a place called Zycron. In Zycron, child slaves who become blind from weaving carpets go on to become assassins who sacrifice and mutilate mute and tongueless women. Atwood adds dimension to her novel through this sci-fi parable that draws parallels between gender and social issues in the fictional Zycron and the real Port Tlconderoga, where the Chases live. When Laura's book is published and labeled obscene, she becomes a posthumous icon with a cult following . Iris, who is subtly sardonic yet charming, Uves in her younger sister's shadow. In one memorable scene, Iris goes to visit her grave and finds a fan digging up dirt to take home. As the three stories come together, Atwood proves that things may not be exactly as they seem. The final plot twist will make readers look back and reread previous sections for the clues thatAtwood deftly places throughout the narrative. In the end, it's the truth that matters most, though as Iris says, the truth is hard to tell. Having lived a lifetime of regret, she decides to set the record straight, telling her readers, "The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down wiU never be read." (MS) Among the Missing by Dan Chaon Ballantine Books, 2001, 272 pp., $22 Nights when I need to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, short-story The Missouri Review · 203 coUections are my bedtime reading of choice. Because I greatly admired Dan Chaon's first book, Fitting Ends (Northwestern University Press, 1995), I was deUghted to get my hands on an advance reader's copy of his new story coUection, Among the Missing. I figured the twelve stories would be good for four or five nights' worth of prebed reading. I was wrong. The stories in Among the Missing are so compelling that I read every one the night I started the book (bleary-eyed, I blamed the collection when people at work commented the next day about how tired I looked). Chaon's prose is unassuming yet precise. He avoids stylistic tics and experimental writing in favor of important stories, weU told. His landscapes are Midwestern; his characters are Midwesterners, down to earth and leery of causing scenes. In the hands of a lesser writer they might become caricatures, but Chaon's compassion and understanding result in credible, three-dimensional human beings. In "Late for the Wedding," a clash between Midwest and East Coast results in a physical confrontation. Trent is living with an older woman, Dorne, his teacher before he dropped out of Western Nebraska State College. Dome is from New York, and her grown son, David Bender, who is only a couple ofyears younger than Trent, comes to Nebraska. Both Dorrie and David Bender regard Trent with impatience: he's taciturn and seems to them more brawn than brain. But the reader understands from Trent's reflection on his past life—he was married for a short while before he met Dorrie—that he actually possesses a much richer interior landscape than either Dorrie or...


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