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The desperate, the pure-at-heart, the charmingly manipulative, the wise, the deluded — mothers and children of every stripe populate this collection of stories by Avery Caswell.
In “Irish Twins &?Thoughts of Suicide,” Marann, a young artist down to her last three dollars, knows she can either fall into the unknown, or venture forth like a tightrope walker, while in “64 With a Sharpener”?ten-year-old Frances, in her thin-soled Keds, is aware already of how much better the world looks at a distance. A military school cadet cons his mother in a series of text messages, only to discover he’s been conned himself. And in “Salvation” Maggie remembers her Gullah grandmother Pasqueline describing a summer sky, “so still, like a body, a kuwfa, with no more breath left in its bones.”
Caswell evokes past and present and paints a southern landscape with a deft brush, from neighborhoods with split level houses and paved driveways, dirt roads the color of mahogany with a cluster of shacks no bigger than a child’s playhouse, to a garden full of cures and curses, where the gardener knows which plants nourish and which are pure poison, and should she choose, she could “consign anyone to his fate, with no more thought than deadheading a bed of chrysanthemums.”