In these fourteen stories, Lily Tuck introduces us to women who are in "limbo" or at transition points in their lives. They are either on vacation or on their honeymoon or getting away after a divorce or trying to figure out what comes next.
Tuck makes these very bold women, who readily deal with sex, death and new experiences with ease, though obtuse when analyzing their feelings. It takes them awhile to realize that traveling from one exotic place to another, meeting new people, embracing local customs, learning languages and trying out new cuisine does not alter the path of their destiny. They cannot escape the consequences of the choices they have already made. Sometimes, they are even powerless in changing the path their future is inevitably going to take them to. A new exotic place will not change repressed emotions or traumatic memories.
But sometimes getting away from it all can be healing and does help. For
instance, in "La Mayonnette," a family goes on vacation, a couple with the two
sons. They arrive at the house they have rented from her college friend for
the summer. On the first night, while everyone is asleep, the protagonist is
awake, "disturbed by the wallpaper" in the room painted yellow.
The distorted faces symbolize the disjointed pieces of her life, which she now admits exist. At the end of the vacation, she finds some peace because before leaving, she goes back to the house to check if there is anything left behind and she touches the wallpaper profile of the woman and kisses her on the lips.
The pattern is repeated in other exotic places, whether the woman are meeting a friend in California or visiting the Nagasaki Museum in Japan. They either finally realize something about themselves and sometimes they change it, or sometimes maybe itís just enough to reach a level of awareness.
The stories are like vacation snapshots, as if Tuck traveled around the world and actually interviewed these women and solicited true confessions from them. She gets into their heads and examines them minutely, dissecting their emotions and showing their flaws but itís never done in a condescending manner.
She records their thoughts dispassionately as if distancing herself from them, but itís easy to see that she sympathizes with their confusion, conflict and struggle to seek answers.
Thereís humor in the stories, sometimes sadness, sometimes irony, but itís always different. She writes with a passion reminiscent of Virginia Woolf.
Tuck was born in Paris and is the author of the novels Interviewing Matisse, The Woman Who Walked on Water and Siam. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Fiction and The Antioch Review. She lives in Maine and New York City.