Strange Business

Rilla Askew, Author, Rilla Askey, Author
Rilla Askew, Author, Rilla Askey, Author Viking Books $20 (208p) ISBN 978-0-670-84259-9
Reviewed on: 06/29/1992
Release date: 07/01/1992
Paperback - 191 pages - 978-0-8061-4028-5
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-14-016595-1
Ebook - 1 pages - 978-0-8061-8416-6
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The regional voices in these 11 interrelated, canny stories are protean and riveting as they record the ``strange business'' of death and the fleetingness of life in the fictional town of Cedar, Okla. Opening with Native American recollections of bloody strife among whites and several Choctaw factions in 1892, debut author Askew titles each subsequent tale with a year from 1961 to 1986. The white settlers' descendants, young and old, are heard from. Little Cephus of ``1964'' covets a playmate's pet raccoon and dreams it has died. Self-conscious teenager Lyla Mae cringes on her awkward first date with a boy she met at Bible camp (``1967''); in ``1968,'' she crawls from her window with her worldlier California cousin Nikki to drive with the town youths till dawn. In ``1981,'' an old man speaks tenderly from beyond the grave about his wife's farewell at his funeral. Emerging gradually over three stories is the figure of D. H. DeWitt, first seen in ``1968'' as he roars through the streets in his pickup truck, egging Lyla Mae and Nikki to steal watermelons and landing in jail. A hung-over D. H. attends the funeral of a friend killed in Vietnam (``1970''), while ``1983'' sees a fatuous, lonely D.H., now a snake wrangler, toting his unpredictable pet into a bar to shock the patrons--with catastrophic results. In unfolding this fertile character especially, Askew reveals tantalizing novelistic potential. (July)
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