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'Love Letters' is written from a land of loss

Scientific ResearchExercise PhysiologyRefugeeMarlene DietrichLos Angeles Times

The nervous, tender-hearted stories in "Love Letters From a Fat Man" (BkMk Press, 234 pages, $16.95 paper) are often set in that netherworld humans inhabit after loss -- that strange, weightless, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other place that is a buffer between the painful present and the next chapter.

Naomi Benaron's characters find safety in the oddest ways, for instance Otto in the title story, who watches Marlene Dietrich movies.

In "Vibrations of a Desert Rose," Sylvia thinks "about vibrational nodes, those places along the surface of a standing wave where motion ceases," realizing that the shoulder she's leaning on is just such a place.

Ingabire, a dancer, finds herself in a Rwandan refugee camp with a burning fever. She dreams of dancing, "the earth grows dark with blood. The cries of her people rise through the soles of her feet."

The stories in this debut collection never relax, never loosen their grip, never stop their painful, sparkling insistence that there is something finer, safer, kinder somewhere.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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