March 03, 1986 12:00 PM

by Shirley Ann Grau

For those who like their fiction in short takes, here are nine superb stories by a Southern writer who combines the best of the region’s traditional lyrical impulses with today’s sensibilities. Grau describes a disparate group of women, white and black, rich and poor. The only thing they have in common is emotional maturity and, usually, an illuminating self-awareness. “The Beginning” is about a young black woman who “passed my childhood disguised to myself as a princess.” She models for her mother, a dressmaker, and the two turn their poor life together into a kind of fantasy. “Hunter” is about a woman who is the only survivor of a plane crash that kills her husband and two daughters. Can she come to terms with the accident? “Widow’s Walk” describes a woman’s first season back at the beach club after her husband’s death. It is moving in unexpected ways: “After the funeral, surfeited with kisses and tears, staggering under the burden of organ chords, she’d returned to their house alone.” “Home” is about a lesbian couple, successful and wealthy, troubled because the younger woman wants a child. One of the most affecting stories is “Flight.” It describes the simple life of an old woman who is going home to die, evoking incandescent moments of her childhood, such as rafting on a canal. Grau is among the South’s best writers, right there on Eudora Welty’s front porch. In simple, elegant prose, she goes for the meaningful, emotion-packed moment. (Knopf, $15.95)

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