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Shields, Carol.

Don Mills (Ont.), Stoddart, c1985. 183pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 0-7737-50363. CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by Anne Locatelli

Volume 14 Number 1
1986 January

"Several of the miracles that occurred this year have gone unrecorded" states Shields at the opening of the first story in this intriguing collection. She then promptly proceeds to recount some of the miracles, perhaps better defined as coincidences, by giving the reader some fascinating and sometimes disturbing examples. American born, Shields became a Canadian citizen through marriage in 1971. While establishing herself as a university professor of English, she published several well-accepted collections of poetry. Her greatest success came with Small Ceremonies (McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1976), which won the Canadian Authors' Association award for best novel, in 1977 Other novels followed.

Her genuine interest in human beings and the many aspects of their everyday lives mingles with her keen, sensible observations, and a refreshing sense of humour to provide delightful insights into common people's lives and to reveal them as they really are, rather than as they might appear to be. In the delicate texture and balance of each story the ordinary becomes extraordinary and even unique. Take Mrs. Turner, a fat, middle-aged widow, who periodically goes out to cut the grass, wearing outlandish clothes, under the super critical, watchful eyes of her neighbours. Oblivious to them, Mrs. Turner glides along, wrapped up in the world of her own romantic memories, naively content and even happy, in spite of it all. Or take the couple, househunting in Vancouver; nothing seemed to be good enough for them. In each house they saw, they invariably detected some give-away of a past sad event until they finally realized that they too would be leaving some shadows behind in their own house, soon to be put up for sale.

I enjoyed this collection very much. The stories are delightful and brilliant, full of surprises and unexpected twists, with the terse narrative making them easy to read. With its strong paper binding, its fairly large print, and colourful jacket, this book will appeal to many readers. Recommended for the Canadian collection.

Anne Locatelli, Elliott Lake S.S., Elliott Lake, Ont.
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