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[whitespace] All reviews by Christine Brenneman (CB) and Michelle Goldberg (MG)

Friendly Fire
By Kathryn Chetkovich
University of Iowa Press, 138 pages, $15.95

Winner of the 1998 John Simmons Short Fiction Award, Kathryn Chetkovich's Friendly Fire is at once comic and emotionally heavy. This selection of short stories centers around the ties that bind us to those we love. The pain and joy of such relationships emanates from these tales as Chetkovich explores the interactions between women and their friends, lovers and family. Seamlessly woven together, this collection takes the reader on a journey into another person's world of mishaps, encounters and moving moments. The author possesses a great handle on metaphor and the flow of prose as well. Although common human experience constitutes the subject matter of Friendly Fire, Chetkovich makes the ordinary seem extraordinary. (CB)


Girl Walking Backwards
By Bett Williams
St. Martins Press, 242 pages, $12.95

Bett Williams' Girl Walking Backwards is one of those novels that I want to foist on every woman I know because it's so poignant and funny and sad about growing up smart, female and miserable. Skye is a Southern California high school student whose mother is a prescription-drug-addicted, New Age-obsessed mess. An inexperienced lesbian, Skye falls for a crazy Goth girl with a habit of self-mutilation. Although Girl Walking Backwards is full of drugs and teenage sex--both cynically casual and sweetly exhilarating--it's neither exploitative nor cautionary and condescending. Instead, it's gripping, insightful and so refreshing it feels like you're reliving the frustrating, naive and emotionally amplified days right before you finally get out on your own. (MG)


Like Never Before
By Ehud Havazelet
Farrar Straus & Giroux, 268 pages, $23

This stunning collection of interlinked stories follows a Jewish family from Nazi-era Europe to present-day Manhattan. Like a family photo album, Ehud Havazelet's spare, restrained prose captures the Birnbaums at decisive moments, sometimes returning to them decades later as they move in and out of each other's lives. In "Lyon," a boy sees his brother rounded up by the Nazis and has to ignore him to avoid being taken himself. "Ruth's Story" puts us inside the head of a dying woman as she resigns herself to her life. By telling the Birnbaums' story in these vignettes instead of in an epic novel, Havazelet achieves a kaleidoscopic perspective, where each of his characters is seen through the eyes of the others. (MG)

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From the October 19-November 1, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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