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In Envy Country: Stories (Richard Sullivan Prize)
Date of Review: 
Published Work: 
Elizabeth Fishel
San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

Bay Area writer Joan Frank's fourth work of fiction, the very readable new collection "In Envy Country," is also a prize winner (the Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction) and offers the pleasures of a gossipy chat with an astute and clever friend. This friend also has a dark wit, a playful way with language and imagery and does not suffer fools gladly...The nine pieces collected here recall two story masters, an unexpected but not unpleasant marriage between Alice Adams and Raymond Carver. Like Adams, Frank knows her women on the edge, women embroiled in no-exit relationships, trying to run away from their lives or reinvent them, and too often dependent on the kindness of men who aren't all that kind. Women are the focal characters or narrators in all the stories, and they can be emotional and, at times, difficult...Joan Frank is a shrewd and, yes, frank observer both of people with money and people wanting it. Her sharp portraits and original way with words make these stories surprising and rewarding. "Gerald has so many oddnesses no one thought twice about them." Colin's looks are "delicious, like a mocha cake." At Nikki's center was "a kind of unmetness, chewing steadily at her like so many garden snails." Frank offers morsels like this on every page, delicious but with an occasional dollop of horror.

Elizabeth Fishel is the author of "Reunion: The Girls We Used to Be, the Women We Became" and "Sisters" and co-editor (with Terri Hinte) of "Something That Matters."