Picks and Pans Review: The Lover of Horses

updated 10/20/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/20/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Tess Gallagher

Gallagher's characters more than the events she describes will be remembered by readers of this collection of stories. The lover of horses is the narrator's great-grandfather, an Irishman who whispered to the animals. When one horse he couldn't resist came through with a circus, he followed it, deserting his wife and 11 children. This story and several others are about people drawn to hard drink or gambling or other "unsavory desires." The narrator of "Recourse," though, is an older man, a widower, who works in a tavern. The tavern owner is the sister of a woman the narrator loved when they were young. She is a cripple named Pebble and has big green eyes. A dog is kidnapped and a house is destroyed in anger, but it is the narrator's revived love for his childhood sweetheart that is memorable. The heroine of "At Mercy" lives with a college teacher and suffers from jealousy and insecurity. At the end comes a fine moment when "she could see their shoes lined up under the dresser. For some reason they reminded her of small boats at anchor." While Gallagher's characters do not see themselves as victims, they are caught in circumstances that seem to numb them. Her people are the odd, anonymous folks seen in an old car in a shopping-mall parking lot. They love irrationally and yet that love seems to be the only thing in their lives that makes it possible for them to endure. Gallagher is a poet and essayist. Both these disciplines enrich these original stories. (Harper & Row, $16.95)

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