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Marrow and Other Stories

by Nora Gold

It’s not surprising that a collection of short stories entitled Marrow (the kind found in bones) and containing a novella called Flesh would be preoccupied with the body. All the stories in Nora Gold’s debut collection focus on the female body. The title story deals with the gruelling details of a miscarriage, others with the details of sexual involvement.

In Gold’s hands, a kiss is both clinically detailed and borderline pornographic. The emphasis is not solely on the physical, however, but on capturing the involvement of the body in emotional experience, and Gold’s ability to do this is her greatest strength. In Flesh, a blow-by-blow account of the pain of rejection is excruciating, and never maudlin or tedious.

The protagonists of these stories are educated, successful, Jewish women. At age 40, or 41, each suffers a substantial loss out of which some sort of renewal emerges. (The inclusion of a less than memorable piece called “Miniatures,” and subtitled “Eight Women, The Day They Turn Forty” underlines this landmark age.) Feminist themes proliferate and are dealt with in a heavy-handed way; they are too obvious and offer no new insights.

Attempts to explore the power and magic of language are more interesting, but the author’s own use of language varies in its effectiveness. There are intriguing, startling first lines such as “I lost my baby in Hebrew,” or, “I have a cousin who hasn’t left the house in twenty years,” but the writing that follows doesn’t always live up to such beginnings.