Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

IN BRIEF

Fiction

September 29, 1996|MICHAEL HARRIS

THE IMMIGRANT TRAIN & Other Stories by Natalie L. M. Petesch (Swallow Press: $24.95, 195 pp.). The main characters in this novella and eight stories all come from the Polish village of Lunawicz around the turn of the century. They flee poverty and conscription into the Russian army; they survive steerage and the humiliations of Ellis Island; they toil in mines, sweatshops and steel mills; they dodge strikebreakers' clubs and bullets. Some prosper, some merely hang on, some die. As described by Natalie L. M. Petesch in a prose whose period overtones belie a contemporary sensibility, it's an experience that is being lived, in only superficially different forms, by immigrants today.

A beekeeper tries to re-create pastoral life in a Pittsburgh tenement. A man realizes his dream of owning a farm in Texas, then abandons it in an attempt to reclaim his soul. Another man has his boots stolen and finds love on the deck of a transatlantic steamer. In the novella, "Pawel in America," a political refugee with a forged passport tries to hide his education--he is a doctor--and pretend to be a farmer, but fellow immigrants' need for his medical skills constantly tempts him to betray himself.

Petesch ("Flowering Mimosa") dedicates this somber yet lyrical collection to those "who, like my mother, came, labored in misery, cold and darkness, and perished unknown."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|