In the Mouth
stories and novellas
by Eileen Pollack
paper, 275 pages, $18.95
“Incisive, beautifully crafted stories about family relationships, focused especially on the dynamic between fathers and daughters.
“Pollack (Paradise, New York, 1998, etc.) looks lovingly and longingly at the way families work, particularly when death is impending. It's hard to choose favorites here, for all are worthy. "The Bris" examines the life of James Sloan, who has been living a lie, and now, on the point of death, charges his son Marcus with the task of finding a mohel who will perform a bris so he can be buried next to his wife in an Orthodox cemetery. As James's health declines, Marcus's anxiety and desperation increase, for the rabbi refuses to countenance the bris for both religious and personal reasons. (A competitive player, the rabbi won't even consider the request until Marcus wins at least two games in a set of tennis.) Marcus is finally led to take matters into his own hands, as it were. "Uno" introduces us to Heloise and Mitch, who on holiday at the Sunshine Lodge (where the food is so pure "you needed a spiritual license to be allowed to eat") meet a family that includes Sarah and Meribeth, Siamese twins who help call into question Heloise's tidy world. The longest piece is "Beached in Boca," a nuanced story that weaves together three narrative lines with great delicacy. Wendy has come to visit her father in Boca Raton only to find out that he has AIDS. Dealing with the jolt of this revelation, she examines her own sexual history and her inability to commit to her current lover, a 60-year-old professor from Montana. At her father's condominium complex she meets (and is strongly attracted to) Adam Haber, whose father recently committed suicide because the body of a former lover was found in a barrel in the basement of his house.
“Delicate but dazzling.”
KIRKUS REVIEWS March 1, 2008
Taking on the hidden surfaces and interior worlds beneath any family unit, In the Mouth, is witty, affecting, and irresistible. Pollack shows us how secrets that might sunder a family often become its strongest connection. Whether in the form of an unopened safe a family is selling in a yard sale, or a son realizing his father is guilty of murder, these stories investigate the nerve endings of human relationships.
Pollack writes about times of tragedy and transition insightfully, aware of their everyday quality and of their gravity. In the Mouth is a window onto the amazing tenderness and irrationality of human life.
One story, “The Bris,” has been selected for The Best American Short-Stories 2008 (Ed. Stephen King and Heidi Pitlor).
“...an American talent...”
– STEPHEN KING
“In The Mouth is the work of an audacious talent, opening wide and deep. With scrupulous wit, Eileen Pollack probes the armor, nerve cavities, and secret deposits of family life, as well as the unscratchable itches, both physical and meta-, that keep us awake when the world is sleeping. These stories are smart, funny, sad, gracefully written, and polished to a shine. That reflection you see in them may be your own.”
– ROBERT COHEN
“Eileen Pollack writes with great acuity, humor, and intelligent resignation about the various ways family love is called upon and revealed. This book is terrific company.”
– LORRIE MOORE
“I settled down with Eileen Pollack´s stories as if with an old friend, and what a lovely afternoon they afforded. These are funny, rueful, wise stories, steeped in absurdity, pain, possibility — the work of a writer who has lived.”
– GISH JEN