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Harrison, Jim. The summer he didn't die.

HARRISON, Jim. The summer he didn't die. Grove Press, 278p. c2095. 978-0-8021-4255-9. $13.00. A

This is a new collection of three works in the author's choice medium, the novella. The title story features Brown Dog, t a mixed-blood Native American and a recurrent character in Harrison's fiction. A semiliterate logger and fisherman, he has assumed responsibility for the children of his incarcerated, alcoholic former girlfriend. Berry, the daughter, diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome and unable to function in normal school, is to be sent to Lansing for special education. But after visiting the campus and witnessing Berry's horror of the place, Brown Dog plans an escape to Canada. B.D. juggles his profound care for two children he didn't even father with his love for liquor, fly-fishing and going to bed with rich, lustful women.

In "Republican Wives," three college girlfriends reunite in Mexico after one, Martha, has half-attempted to murder the man with whom all three have had an affair. Each woman narrates with sharp self-regard, and the reader glimpses their lives at various stages, from growing up in wealthy Detroit suburbs, to prep school and the University of Michigan, to marriage and motherhood. We see their most human thoughts and sexual hungers operating within the social class and expectations that bind them.

"Tracking," the final story, follows the life of a boy in northern Michigan after WW II through adolescence, manhood and old age. Often written in the second person, this story delves into his enchantment with places, from a windowless apartment in New York City where he tries to write poetry to a log house in northern Michigan where he succeeds. He grows up a farm boy, yet remains restless; he travels, gains fame, and finally grows old with his wife and daughter in Montana. All the while the nameless man conjures up lines of Keats and Faulkner and Joyce and wonders if his own words will ever "suck the world dry." Harrison compresses a lifetime of experience into just 100 pages.

Ultimately, we are struck with the unmistakable connection between these three disparate stories--no matter how different the background of his characters, Harrison writes of what it feels like to be in this world in body and in mind. Avi Kramer, Teaching Intern, The Fessenden School, W. Newton, MA

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Author:Kramer, Avi
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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