No Reason on Earth

There are two things that make this collection of stories unusual. First, the stories describe in detail the coming together in marriage, and sometimes love, of young men and women from entirely different regions of the United States. Art students from the “East” make binding commitments to the drifters and gamblers from the “West.” Teenage runaways supply alternatives for dead mates to mature landowners trying to recover a lost heritage. What we remember as the political and social upheaval of the 1960’s becomes, in these stories, a new chapter in the history of the American West--a strange reawakening of the frontier.

However, the “frontier” is now a matter of mental and cultural barriers, and no longer merely the outer edges of a natural wilderness. This brings us to the second thing that makes Haake’s fiction memorable. She has perfected a probing and sinuously analytical prose style that enables her to realize what she herself calls the “intrusive” penetration of the “private, enduring instinct behind the narrative impulse.” What she seems to mean by this description of her own work is that she has found a way of demonstrating her own motives for storytelling in the very act of doing it; that in her narrative strategies she has caught something of the primal need to be fictive--in herself, in her characters, and in her readers.

As readers we are often sucked into what she does as a storyteller and wind up participating in the telling--or not telling--of the story. A good example of this is the story “Recently I’ve Discovered My Mistake,” in which nuclear holocaust, a flawed marriage, and the miracles of what is still left of Western wildness blend, but not quite, in the quizzical awe of the narrator’s “It might have been funny, but it wasn’t.”