From Publishers Weekly
An anarchist commune in Washington State, founded in the '60s, survived the disenchantments of the next decades, but its idealistic inhabitants are shaken when one of their longtime members, Lila, dies of cancer at age 50. Poet and fiction writer Van Winckel's (After a Spell; Quake) collection of eight interconnected stories tenderly and honestly describes the joys, compromises, dreams and hard realities of the farm, "a world away from the world." In truth, a generation after the farm's inception, the collective collides with the outside world more often than not. Lila's herpetologist son, Russell, is seriously enamored of Lila's friend, Geneva, in "The Lap of Luxury." In "Making Headway," Roxanne gives Geneva deep-tissue massages, and knows that her back problems stem from being "spooked by love"; that is, she's afraid to accept Russell's devotion, because he's 15 years her junior. Roxanne's husband is long gone, prompting advances from Frito, a nomadic Web designer. The children of the community poignantly respond to Lila's death by organizing mock funerals for kittens, possums and other animals, even staging one for a four-year-old playmate ("The Land of Anarchy"). This ceremony is interrupted by the appearance of a cougar, one moment of many where Van Winckel's canny symbolism satisfyingly vexes the distinction between nature and culture. The children, meanwhile, demarcate the thin line between the commune's stubbornly radical vision and its inescapable participation in various social constructs. In the final story, "Treat Me Nice," this division is beautifully transcended. Francine, a nurse, encounters an Elvis imitator with a mysterious injury, whom she marries on the farm. At the wedding, 12 other Elvis imitators, singing "All Shook Up," parachute to earth from a plane high above. The narrative is chock-full of surprising images like this one, as Van Winckel merges popular culture and utopian lifestyles with rosy, generous vision. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Eight indelible portraits of fascinating women in...fully satisfying stories about a commune....[Van Winckel] invests them with humor and compassion. -- Seattle Times, 30 August 2000
The mundane and the transcendent come together . . . like homespun cloth with threads of garnet silk woven in. -- The Inlander, Spokane, Sheri Boggs, 10 June 2000