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Needing something solid to ground her life in, Dale has found in the Jehovah 's Witnesses a doctrine that gives her faith and hope as weU as a strict code to live by. Jake feels ignored, sold out by his wife's adoption of an inflexible religion that excludes his own needs. Though he compromises with Dale by doing home Bible study under the direction of an elder Witness , Jake angrily quits when the discussion of Job's suffering proves to him thatJehovah is a merciless tyrant. The novel is a continual interplay between Dale's beliefs and needs and Jake's. What sets it apart is the risk it takes with narrative method: ostensibly multiple points of view are, in fact, one point of view: that of Justy, a highly intuitive seven-yearold struck "speechless" one day by her parents' bitter divisions. Justy, we are told, "gave over her voice, swam to the bottom of the Eel River, slipped her tongue in among the rocks and fell into the currents of their minds." Mute, she becomes, paradoxically, the voice that gives utterance to others. Though the novel ends in tragedy, Gullick demonstrates rare insight into human conflict and a genuine concern for healing. The setting is rich, the narrative perspective unique and the characters are masterfully portrayed . OS) Slow Risen Among the Smoke Trees by Elizabeth Kirschner Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2002, 68 pp., $12.95 (paper) Elizabeth Kirschner's first two books—Twenty Colors (1992) and Postal Routes (1998)—stood out on the strength of their beautiful, often courageous, contradictions. Risking, but never lapsing into, sentimentality , Kirschner managed to maintain a delicate balance between tenderness and harshness, demonstrating an understated eroticism, a gentleembracing of disappointment and a mistrust of any promise of paradise. Much of this is true of Kirschner's latest book as well. LUy, the protagonist , is introduced in the first poem, "Cornerstone Farm," as a young, somewhat sheltered girl helping her father to milk cows. There is a compelling, almost idealized innocence to this initial scene (she walks out of the barn into a "perfume" ofevening), yet even these first moments are charged with both sensuality and foreboding. When one of her braids falls into the milk, "Lily's father shakes it, quick/as a kitten's tail, but only Lily/sucks the sweetness out,/each strand a straw." Upon her return to their house, Lily finds "her drunken mother,/moored in the shadowed/doorway, her cigarette /dimlyaglowbeneath/a remote, snow-wrecked/heaven." What fascinates about Slow Risen Among the Smoke Trees is its overt delineation , through the medium of lyric poetry, of a distinct, linear narrative. In many ways, the story that follows the first poem is a common one in literature: Lily's idyllic childhood scenes become suffused by a deepening sense of suffering, even horror. In rapid succession her beloved father loses first his job, then his wife (to alcoholism), then his own life. Lily, left alone with a mother whose main redeeming quality appears to be an almost Faulknerian ability to survive— "Nothing/can pull her from this earth/and for this,/Lily loves her"— becomes more and more desperate to The Missouri Review · 199 escape. Predictably, Lily uses sex as her way out. Again predictably, she becomes pregnant, has an abortion, an additional illicit love affair, and then meets the man whom she will marry, whose children she wUl bear. If this were a fiction narrative, the unremarkable plot would be a serious flaw. What makes this book a success is how Kirschner teUs LUy's story; the poems are powerful and moving, with the plot not so much narrated as evoked. Even weaker, seemingly plot-driven poems such as "Ordained to Mar with the Erotic" are redeemed by the poems that out of structural necessity must follow them, such as the amazing "At the Stone Zoo." The real treasure is the wonderful last section, where LUy must come to terms with both her past and her present. The playful eroticism of "The Red Door," the moving denouement of "Slow Risen Among the Smoke Trees," the tension (sexual and otherwise ) that infuses yet never overwhelms the almost dreamlike "Faux Doe...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 199-200
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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