Annotated Table of Contents Part I "What the Lilies Know" (published as "The Woman Who Sold Communion" in McSweeney's, 2005 and Best of McSweeney's, 2006.) Amy Cruz, a history professor just denied tenure, hasn't been home in 20 years. She finds her narcissist mother, the Hydra of her memory, is a woman aging in solitude in a small yellow trailer near Taos, New Mexico. The commune of her childhood is falling in pieces around her. "When Bob Dylan dies, I'll be a widow," her mother says. They drive to sacred Indian ruins and then Laughlin, Nevada. In a casino on the Colorado River, with the tinny percussion of chips tumbling from slot machines, Amy finally understands the essence of history. "Cocktail Hour" (published in Mississippi Review, Volume 33 #1 & 2, winner of the Mississippi Review Prize) Dr. Bernie Roth and his wife Chloe reside in a grand hacienda on the cliffs above the beach in La Jolla. Their children are in college, they've followed the conventional rules with discipline and integrity, and their disappointments are profound. But Bernie has his doctor's bag of elixirs for the regrets of late middle age. "Women of the Ports" (published as "The Neutral Zone" in San Francisco Noir, Akashic Books, 2005) Two fortyish women meet episodically at Fisherman's Wharf. There's nothing festive about their reunions. They shared a childhood of impoverished neglect and abuse that even cosmetic surgery can't remove. They practice the strategies of the battlefield, with a special affection for ambushes and betrayal. As Clarissa observes, "Don't romanticize. We were slippage. And the immigrant experience can kiss my ass." "Feeding in a Famine" (published by Connotation Press online, June 2015) Each summer, Megan Miller, an LA lawyer, returns to her family's farm in Idaho. It's a pilgrimage in reverse where she expects nothing and views her annual visits as an ethnographic exercise. Her parents shun her, and her sister is enraged. "You don't come to see us," she accuses. "You come for us to see you. Wed up to a Jew boy. Getting an abortion, a divorce, now red hair and lips that look like somebody punched your mouth." In Megan's home town, "It's a perpetual cycle of poor harvests and drowning the girl children." It's the August hay-stained drought yellows of the barley and potato fields that speak to Megan in the squalls and sudden lightning she recognizes as the transcendent language of liberation. Part II "O'Hare" A 13-year-old girl must choose between her Grammy Award winning mother in Beverly Hills or her pot growing father in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. It's summer at Camp Hillel, she's covered with insect bites, can't select which foreign language she'll study, and coolly realizes her decisions will be defining and inexorable. "Skinny Broads with Wigs" (published as Mrs. Jordan's Summer Vacation "Editors Choice" Carver Award, Carver Magazine, Volume 5, 2005) Mrs. Barbara Stein, a Wood's End High School teacher, favors navy and cranberry clothing from catalogues, and looks like she'd sacrifice her life for Emily Dickinson's honor. That's camouflage. Mrs. Stein actually spends summers in the Sisyphean search for her prostitute daughter in Los Angeles, in a region of lost women, renegades and runaways where no one remembers her. "They're all skinny broads with wigs," she is told. "The Professor's Wife" Malcolm McCarty, a professor with an affection for biking, gardening, Shakespearean sonnets and NPR has no concept of who his wife of decades really is. Or what she is capable of. Meanwhile his colleague, Bob Lieberman, succumbs to open mic poetry nights. "When I'm an adept, I'll birth royal lepers," he insists. "A Good Day for Seppuku" Tom Sutter returns to Wood's End for the unequivocal final ritual of manhood, the funeral of his father. His father, the town's veterinarian and a professional poker player, was a runaway from an Amish colony in Manitoba who didn't file a Missing Person Report when his mother vanished. His father raised him, but was a man inhabiting multiple lives simultaneously. Tom couldn't penetrate his masks then and he can't recognize him, even in death.
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Kate Braverman is the author of a memoir, four novels, two story collections, and four books of poetry. She is the recipient of the Economist Prize, an Isherwood Fellowship, and the O'Henry Award. A native of Los Angeles, she has lived and written extensively about her life in Venice and Echo Park. She spent fifteen years living near the Allegheny Mountains in New York State and has recently returned to the Bay Area, where she is teaching poetry and fiction workshops.