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MacGowan to inform him that he is dripping snot aU over himself, which he doesn't seem to mind. Appended to the conversations are MacGowan's "Unconditional Apology ," which includes the lines, "When I spewed this stuff I was a stranger in my own soul," along with a declaration of unconditional love for everyone he has thoroughly slandered and whom he believes he will see at the gates of hell. A genuine one-off. (CF) The Phantom Limbs ofthe Rollow Sisters by Timothy Schaffert BlueHen Books, 2002, 50 pp., $23.95 You might expect two sisters named LUy and Mabel RoUow who live in their own antique store in rural Nebraska to be a pair of whitehaired biddies harping and screeching at each other. But the Lily and Mabel in Timothy Schaffert's debut novel, The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters, are twenty-somethings who toss around four-letter words, fight over the same boy, drink cheap booze and generaUy do their best to exorcise the demons of their past—namely, their father's suicide and their mother's subsequent abandonment . Two young girls with old-fashioned names incongruously placed in a house cluttered with antiques . . . the fact that lily's sensitive boyfriend Jordan drives serial kiUer Charles Starkweather's 1956 Packard . . . Mabel's love for a boy on account of his dead sister: the storyhas "quirky" written aU over it. To Schaffert's credit, he pushes most of the gimmicks to the side and allows LUy and Mabel to stand on their own two comparatively normal feet. The more we get to know these girls, the more poignant and engrossing their orphans' tale becomes. Ninety years ago, they would have been played by Dorothy and Liltian Gish in the movies (in fact, Schaffert aUudes to Orphans ofthe Storm at one point). Like the Gish girls, LUy and Mabel love each other, mainly out of necessity, united by the tragic faUure of their parents. They spend most ofthenovel apart. LUy goes on a road trip with the suicidal Jordan in search ofher long-lost mother; Mabel remains at the antique shop and becomes involved with the family of a drowned girl, impulsively misleading them to beUeve that she was the recipient of the dead girl's corneas. Separately, the two ponder the fragitity of life: Why should we live? Why should we die? Schaffert is sometimes clunky and didactic: the antique shop is an obvious metaphor for the hodgepodge of life (the Easter bonnet, the comic book, the phonograph record, "the lace-up boot of a woman who'd almost taken the Titanic"), and it's easy to predict the climactic moment at least fifty pages before its arrival. Yet, Schafferthas created characters who engage our attention and, ultimately , our sympathy. Not aU of us Uve orphaned lives in a rural antique shop, but we can aU understand the feelings of loss and abandonment— the phantom pain of someone who should be there but isn't. Lily, Mabel and their mother aU come to realize that the only way to keep their lives in balance is by The Missouri Review · 195 keeping the wounds of the past open and bleeding: "It was a maternal impulse. Of course it was. A deep desire to keep your dead as a constant ache in your heart, and not just a memory or a pain somewhat eased. It had to always be that thing that ruined your life." Grim as that may sound, the sisters come to realize that even if they can't change the past, they can make the best of the future. Schaffert closes the book with a graceful portrait of sisterly bonding that's like a sUent-film camera iris slowly closing. (DA) Kissing in Manhattan by David Schickler Dial Press, 2001, 274 pp., $21.95 In his debut collection of stories, David Schickler is foUowing the current trend to link stories together in a larger tale resembling a novel. In the case of Kissing in Manhattan, the stories hover around three characters , their several friends and associates and one distinctive and haunting apartment building aptly named The Preemption. The title of this book makes it sound more jaunty...


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pp. 195-196
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