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Immigrant song

New collection brimming with life

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Novello Festival Press has unearthed a gem in Doris Iarovici. The winner of NFP's 2005 Literary Award for her sterling collection, American Dreaming and Other Stories, Iarovici has created a perceptive and exciting look at the ironies of modern American life and the immigrant experience.

Iarovici is, as Anton Chekhov was, a physician. The economy of the short story has suited her busy life, and she rides the unforgiving form for all it's worth. Iarovici delivers fully loaded, carefully described characters and creates mood by attention to the most telling collections of inanimate objects. Her mastery of dialogue seems enriched by insights that could only stem from observing and treating patients.

The most powerful punch in this collection -- so brimming with life that it can hardly contain the author's talent -- is the lingering sense that we Americans ourselves, no matter how long we've been here, hold the power to help or hinder another person in pursuit of the American Dream. Those are the kinds of choices that empower or ruin the characters in these smart stories.

In "Facts," Lisa takes her fiancé to meet her mentally unstable father, and Iarovici writes, "She stepped through the door as if she were leaving a dock for a canoe." "American Dreaming" tells of how Pranee, a Thai immigrant secretly stashing cash for her daughter's education by cleaning houses, realizes that in one generation an irreversible change is made, and Iarovici surprises with a haunting, Poe-like twist at the end. In "Practical," a woman studying medicine must make painful sacrifices. Brisk dialogue carries an actual heartbreak here as a man buckles under the confusing array of women's choices in a new world.

"Tap Dance" is a playful yet startling slice of medical students' lives in which Sylvia and Ed can't get the needle in the back of an old man, but flirt with ease. "Attempt, Unsuccessful," the bracing story of a gay 20-year-old on the verge of suicide, is a bittersweet look at a mother's love as it emanates from a college professor, the care-worn mother, and a fraternity brother. In "If Wishes Were Horses," Iarovici surprises with a fresh type of character and ends the collection with all the energetic drive and fearlessness it takes to adapt in America.

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