Monday, January 11, 2021



In the first story, a 13-year-old girl is literally “lost” to the world because she is abducted. But in this and the other stories, many interconnected by their setting in the small Southern town of Slocum, girls are metaphorically “lost” because they lose the innocence we associate with girlhood, through the vicious or thoughtless acts of the people around them. This motif runs through these tales, intertwined with themes of teenage anxiety, identity, race, sexuality, aging, parenthood, dependence, violence, and infidelity. Having grown up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I felt anchored in the period by Morris's adept feathering in of details—the musical Bye, Bye, Birdie, Alice from the Brady Bunch, the Kodak Instamatic with Magicube flash, the TV shows Welcome Back, Kotter and Bewitched, dodge ball, and the horrid blue-and-white striped polyester gym uniforms. I remember them well! Yet I was also intrigued by references to aspects of Southern culture that were wholly unfamiliar to me—e.g., the “bottle tree,” in which empty open bottles hung from branches make sorrowful sounds when the wind blows; and the “sin eater,” a person who sits by a dead body and eats a “corpse cake” to take on the sins of the dead. Morris’s language feels frank and fresh: “She stood on the bar as she swayed from side to side. She was losing her religion—right there in front of everybody.” He had “a cleft in his chin, as if God had picked him special and run a fingernail through his chin before his face was set.” Taken together, the stories in this evocative, often devastating, collection explore a range of women’s experiences, the various losses we suffer privately and collectively, and the ways we sublimate and transcend those losses over time.