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IN BRIEF

Fiction

May 22, 1994|CHRIS GOODRICH

THE LOST AND FOUND AND OTHER STORIES by Anne Marsella (New York University Press: $24 cloth, $10.95 paper; 198 pp.). Most of the characters in the 10 stories making up this collection are profoundly alone, usually in a foreign, adopted city. They aren't exactly lost, however, as the title might indicate: most, in fact, are willfully alone, in part no doubt because of their eccentricities. That's what makes "The Lost and Found" an interesting book--Anne Marsella's ability to trace the lives of misplaced people without condescension or melodrama, to imagine the everyday frictions of self-imposed exile (which the author has no doubt experienced herself, being a Fresno native now living in Paris). In the title story, a half-Irish, half-Mexican game-show employee seeks reunification with her unknown father through a newspaper advertisement directed at St. Jude; in "The Roommates," two women emigrants from Nigeria and Turkey work for a Greek sweatshop foreman in Paris, and are happy for a time to share his bed, and each other; in "The Builder," a clubfooted Egyptian cameraman emigrates to France on the basis of a dream, saying "From my hands I will build palaces"; in "The Mission San Martin," a Franciscan father in California, apparently homesick for France, pleads with parishioners to fund a cooking school rather than a midwifery clinic. Marsella's characters are not commonplace, and she makes them memorable without turning them into caricatures. It's impossible not to like the young Nigerian in "Like Father Like Son" who says, when jilted by his girlfriend for a man with a palatial Paris apartment, "I was understanding that Hilda is preferring the wealths to the loves."

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