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and his mother have become and how little sympathy may exist between them. She disappears, and years later her son stül has no idea where she might be, why she left or whether she is stül aUve. The reader is left wondering how relationships that are supposed to be the bedrock of our lives can simply dissolve. This coUection is fuU of treasures, from the masterful representation of guUt repressed and its tragic consequences in "A Little Something to Remember Me By" to a hUarious conversation about "moshing" in "Burn with Me." If you invest in only one book of short stories this year, make it Among the Missing. (AKB) Mirabilis by Susann Cokal BlueHen/Putnam, 2001, 320 pp., $24.95 Susann Cokal's first novel, Mirabilis, is a fictional hagiography of St. Bonne LaMere, a medieval saint. In fourteenth-century France, in the small town of Villeneuve, Bonne makes her Uving as a wet-nurse in the shadow of her mother, Blanche's, memory. After being physicaUy levitated by the Holy Spirit, Blanche was worshipped by the townspeople until her pregnancy with Bonne proved her impurity. Eventually the town officials burned Blanche and other notorious sinners in the church, leaving twelve-year-old Bonne to make her own way in the world. The people of VUleneuve neither condemn Bonne nor fully accept her. She lives simply and unnoticed until she is hired as a wet-nurse by Radegonde Putemonnoie, the richest noblewoman in VUleneuve, and her overflowing milk supply proves sufficient to feed the entire vUlage. Mirabilis is really a story of selfdiscovery . Early in the novel, Bonne has no sense of seU-worth. She does not challenge the townspeople's rejection of her, though she beUeves that the persecution of her mother was unfau. Bonne herself bore an illegitimate child, and though she did not particularly enjoy its conception , she begins to question the condemnation of female sexuaUty by her society and her religion. A pivotal moment comes when she sees her own face clearly for the first time. As a poor woman, she has never had access to a looking glass, and her intimacy with her rich employer opens up doors to herself that she never knew existed. Cokal turns a medieval woman into a modern heroine of grace and strength. By the end of the novel, Bonne is a powerful, self-aware, sexual being. Rich historical detail lends authenticity to the story. Cokal incorporates many elements typical of a medieval fable—a jester, a noble ascetic, a wicked priest—and turns them all to her own design. She creates a world at once distinctly removed from and strikingly similar to the world of postmodern fiction. Questions are left unanswered, positions are insecure and the novel seems to end just as the "real" story is beginning. But Cokal is not interested in the official story. She is looking for the truth that may or may not have existed behind the facts of Bonne LaMere's life. Mirabilis is an intensely personal tale from start to finish, exhausting, brutal, beautiful, and, ultimately, timeless. (KB) The Missouri Review · 205 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
p. 205
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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