Reviews for Worship of the Common Heart : New and Selected Stories


Library Journal Reviews 2000 October #2
The stories in National Book Award finalist Henley's (Hummingbird House) collection will engage readers with their folksy, down-to-earth style and likable, flawed characters. Many of these stories celebrate attachments of the heart in one form or another, be they family ties or bonds between spouses or lovers, as in the title story, "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," and "Lessons in Joy." At the same time, the author examines the fragility of these bonds and the importance of holding onto them as long as possible. As the narrator, Kate, so eloquently puts it in "Labrador": "I've wrenched my love away from many places and people, and my heart goes out to my mother for what she must have experienced. I wish I could tell her that now. When parents die young, you become old before your time, living in the pastwith them, in memory." These stories were written over 20 years; some are reprints, while others are published for the first time. Recommended for their gracefulness, insight, and emotional content. Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. Lib. Sys., Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2000 August #2
Post-hippie attitudes disdain for conventional mores, a preference for relationships with like-minded free spirits and an appreciation of nature inform this impressive third story collection by Henley, whose first novel, Hummingbird House, was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the New Yorker Best Fiction Book Award. Set across the U.S. wherever loose communities of family and friends settle down, from hardscrabble rural Indiana to the Pacific Northwest, the 19 stories capture defining moments in otherwise ordinary lives. "The Secret of Cartwheels" is one of two tales about a large Catholic family, no doubt inspired by Henley's own experience as the eldest of eight children. At age 13, narrator Roxanne and two of her younger sisters are sent off to a children's home because their mother, an alcoholic, can't cope with her many offspring. Roxanne, plagued by her inability to turn cartwheels and her habit of wetting the bed, dreams despite herself of the life she used to know. In "Cargo," Roxanne reappears as an adult, settled in Montana. Her sister has called to say their mother is dying and the family is gathering. In attempting to decide whether she'll go home, Roxie acknowledges that she's left many places hoping for a new beginning, forgetting every time "that the things you hate the most are the things that travel with you." Many of Henley's characters live transient lives, work at menial jobs mechanic, fruit picker, waitress identify with the lyrics of country music and look to dope, booze and casual sex as palliatives. They recognize their weaknesses, but they don't give up the game. The author's sense of humor shines often. In "Slinkers," Joanne, whose "laughter always made you feel good" is an "intuitive shopper" who proclaims, "If you find a pair of jeans that really fit, buy two pair." These stories, by a marvelous writer who speaks from both the heart and the head, are as comfortable as well-worn denim. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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