And Other Sto­ries

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Women’s Voices -

Katie Cortese, Uni­ver­sity Press of Kentucky (FE­BRU­ARY) Hard­cover $24.95 (146pp), 978-0-8131-7512-6

Katie Cortese’s Make Way for Her: And Other Sto­ries of­fers en­tic­ing glimpses of cu­ri­ously com­pact, wom­en­cen­tric fic­tional uni­verses, gen­er­ally fo­cused on girls, teenagers, women, and the men who af­fect—but not nec­es­sar­ily im­pact—their lives.

Cortese’s writ­ing is smoothly com­pelling and adapts from voice to voice. Char­ac­ters range from the young and per­cep­tive Lily, dal­lied with by a mar­ried au­thor in the hot­house at­mos­phere of a college town; to school­teacher Maya of “The Bounce Back,” who drives from Maine to Ari­zona in a vin­tage Corvette, look­ing for a fresh start. In “Lighter, Bluer, Clearer, Colder,” lit­tle Brinna is full of ev­ery­day ex­cite­ment for dolls and ce­real, dough­nuts and snowflakes, but her baby brother suf­fers from a heart con­di­tion, and it frus­trates her that she cannot share her own en­ergy and health with him. In the sto­ries that fea­ture teens, their con­flicted worlds are taut with dis­cov­ery, self-con­scious­ness, in­tense emo­tions, and bur­geon­ing hor­mones so preva­lent that one char­ac­ter com­ments how they can al­most be smelled in the air. First kisses and en­coun­ters are re­counted with near suf­fo­cat­ing close­ness, amid waves of heart­break and fever­ish crushes like “silent blooms of sud­den heat to be weath­ered.”

Be­yond ado­les­cent in­trigues, one of the col­lec­tion’s best sto­ries is “Straight and Nar­row,” in­volv­ing a weath­ered ex-con tak­ing a ba­sic cook­ing class and his sur­pris­ingly heady ef­fect upon the course in­struc­tor. Over lessons of Hol­landaise sauce and hum­mus, Cortese’s words skill­fully sim­mer, avoid­ing a dra­matic boil­ing point with thought­ful, wryly hu­mor­ous ten­sion.

Though the var­ied women of Make Way for Her are emerg­ing and evolv­ing, mak­ing right and wrong choices along the way, for the most part they share an ap­peal­ing in­ter­nal wis­dom that keeps them true to their real selves, and will hope­fully also keep them on the right course.

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