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EYESTONE by D. R. MacDonald (Penguin: $6.95) : BLANCO by Allen Wier (Harper & Row: $8.95)

September 17, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

Although separated by the span of the continent, the inhabitants of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in D. R. MacDonald's short stories and the Texans in Allen Wier's novel suffer from the same frustration and despair. The little towns that encompass their lives are withering, and they face a bleak future, with no means of escape. These men and women know that tomorrow will be like yesterday, and the day after like the day before: a tedious collection of weary hours and futile dreams.

The Winner of the Pushcart Press Editor's Book Award, MacDonald is the more accomplished writer. The reader feels the pain of his fishermen and farmers as they trudge through the northern fog, seeking solace in rum and dreams of their Celtic ancestors. Wier captures the claustrophobic atmosphere of the flyspeck town of Blanco, but fails to people the landscape with equal skill. His most convincing character is Eunice Momma, a petty old widow whose life has been reduced to aches, complaints and gossip. The suicide of her son, a stolid drudge, and her daughter's marriage to an ambitious real estate developer seem more like soap opera melodrama than credible actions by these characters.

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