The short story has become less popular in recent decades, but Winton's newest collection could convert confirmed novel readers. The stories interweave and overlap novel-like, following events in a small town in Western Australia over decades. The book opens with "Aquifer," which tells the origins of the town where most of the stories take place. A succession of stories, including "Damaged Goods" and "On Her Knees," chronicles the life of Vic, a boy and then a man obsessed with protecting the weak and righting wrong. "Fog" tells part of the story of Vic's father, a policeman on the outside of police corruption, while "Small Mercies" recounts how a man goes back to his small hometown with his child, following the suicide of his wife. A final group of stories concerns bad-tempered Max; his battered wife, Raelene; and his failed golden brother, Frank. With this work, Winton-twice nominated for the Booker Prize (for Dust Music and The Riders) and declared a national living treasure by the Australian National Trust-has something that is more than the sum of its parts. Recommended.-Amy Ford, St. Mary's Cty. Lib., Lexington Park, MD Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Well-known in his native Australia and twice shortlisted for the Man Booker, Winton (Dirt Music, etc.) is overdue for wider recognition in the U.S. This collection of linked stories showcases his strengths: memorable characters colliding with the moments that define them-for better or worse-and clean, evocative prose that captures the often stultifying life in smalltown Western Australia. In the title story, Raelene, a young wife and mother living in a trailer park with her abusive husband, Max, becomes fascinated with her happy new neighbors; the seemingly perfect couple's influence sets Raelene on a muddled path toward self-examination, resulting in a transformation shocking for both its brutality and na?vet?. "Sand" reveals Max's cruelty as a young boy-he tries to bury his younger brother alive-while "Family" shows the two brothers meeting again as adults, with the balance of power between them shifting dramatically. Another character, Vic, is central to the book: he appears as an awkward adolescent fixated on unattainable older girls, as a young man coping with the legacy of his father's alcoholism and abandonment, and as a middle-aged man unable to come to terms with his past. Winton reveals a wide but finely turned swath of simmering inner lives; the sweetness of these stories, as well as their sharp bite, feels earned and real. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.