The Girl from Cardigan

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The point of view common to each story in this collection helps fuse emotions of melancholy, nostalgia, and grief. Often these feelings are overwhelming, especially when they are confronted by the child narrator. Telling about the death of a school chum, the young narrator of “The Wind, the Cold Wind” recalls other moments when sadness resulted from confronting death--the discovery of a dead puppy on a river bank or a motionless butterfly behind a bookcase. Like the child who cowers from the reprimands of the shrill-voiced teacher in “Some Opposites of Good,” the reader again feels small and powerless, unable to articulate an answer to the simplest question. In “Blackberries,” the young protagonist’s father teaches him to choose the plumpest, shiniest berries. Overhearing his parents’ sharp words to each other that evening, the boy learns that even the closeness he felt with his father that afternoon could melt away, for “they were different people ... and he must learn to sometimes be alone.”

At times, a child’s unjaded understanding of life’s cycles enables him to empower an adult with the ability to accept a necessary transition, as in “The Kingfisher.” In the title story, a young man learns of the familial ties that do not always bind, that do not guarantee a warm introduction into the world of business. Through keen observation, he learns that the alienation felt from society’s traditional nurturers can often be used to acquire the independence and shrewdness needed to survive in the business world.

Leslie Norris describes with subtle beauty the human spirit that dives in and out of everyday life. The stories, several of which have appeared in THE NEW YORKER and ATLANTIC MONTHLY, gently confront the loss of childhood virtues and the subsequent search for identity in middle age.