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August 08, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

TALKING TO THE DEAD by Sylvia Watanabe (Anchor: $10.; 127 pp.). The stories in Watanabe's first collection are set in the native communities of Hawaii. She depicts women straining to balance the demands of traditional culture against 20th-Century American mores; women struggling to cope with aging parents; women fighting the expectations of small towns where personal affairs are public knowledge. In the title story, a modern woman witnesses the reaction of the shaman, Aunty Talking to the Dead, to the intrusion of Western influences: "She sang the stones, and trees, and stars back into their rightful places. Louder and louder she sang, making whole what had been broken."

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