Cover image for Worship of the common heart : new and selected stories
Worship of the common heart : new and selected stories
Henley, Patricia.
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Publication Information:
Denver, CO : MacMurray & Beck, [2000]

Physical Description:
vii, 357 pages ; 21 cm
Sun damage -- The pleasure of pears -- Worship of the common heart -- The secret of cartwheels -- Lessons in joy -- Aces -- Hard feelings -- The late hunt -- Slinkers -- Labrador -- Love you can't imagine -- Cargo -- Same old big magic -- Let me call you sweetheart -- The birthing -- Victory -- Picking time -- Friday night at Silver Star -- As luck would have it.
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An impressive overview of a writer whose career is still climbing, Worship of the Common Heart allows us a rare opportunity to observe twenty years in the evolution of a writer of uncommon talent and heart. Emotionally complex, achingly real, these nineteen stories focus on the everyday, defining moments of life, celebrating the unsung and calling attention to the ignored. A young woman comes to an absolute and sad realization about her relationship at the very moment she gives birth. A woman enamored of younger men stumbles upon joy in the most unlikely place. A young nun takes a vacation with her earthy, unpredictable sister and learns a lesson in worship. Told with stunning confidence and honesty, the stories in Worship of the Common Heart revel in sensuality and the complexity of longings.

Author Notes

Patricia Henley teaches in the M.F.A. Creative Writing Program at Purdue University and lives in Indiana.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Post-hippie attitudesDdisdain for conventional mores, a preference for relationships with like-minded free spirits and an appreciation of natureDinform this impressive third story collection by Henley, whose first novel, Hummingbird House, was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the New Yorker Best Fiction Book Award. Set across the U.S. wherever loose communities of family and friends settle down, from hardscrabble rural Indiana to the Pacific Northwest, the 19 stories capture defining moments in otherwise ordinary lives. "The Secret of Cartwheels" is one of two tales about a large Catholic family, no doubt inspired by Henley's own experience as the eldest of eight children. At age 13, narrator Roxanne and two of her younger sisters are sent off to a children's home because their mother, an alcoholic, can't cope with her many offspring. Roxanne, plagued by her inability to turn cartwheels and her habit of wetting the bed, dreams despite herself of the life she used to know. In "Cargo," Roxanne reappears as an adult, settled in Montana. Her sister has called to say their mother is dying and the family is gathering. In attempting to decide whether she'll go home, Roxie acknowledges that she's left many places hoping for a new beginning, forgetting every time "that the things you hate the most are the things that travel with you." Many of Henley's characters live transient lives, work at menial jobsDmechanic, fruit picker, waitressDidentify with the lyrics of country music and look to dope, booze and casual sex as palliatives. They recognize their weaknesses, but they don't give up the game. The author's sense of humor shines often. In "Slinkers," Joanne, whose "laughter always made you feel good" is an "intuitive shopper" who proclaims, "If you find a pair of jeans that really fit, buy two pair." These stories, by a marvelous writer who speaks from both the heart and the head, are as comfortable as well-worn denim. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The stories in National Book Award finalist Henley's (Hummingbird House) collection will engage readers with their folksy, down-to-earth style and likable, flawed characters. Many of these stories celebrate attachments of the heart in one form or another, be they family ties or bonds between spouses or lovers, as in the title story, "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," and "Lessons in Joy." At the same time, the author examines the fragility of these bonds and the importance of holding onto them as long as possible. As the narrator, Kate, so eloquently puts it in "Labrador": "I've wrenched my love away from many places and people, and my heart goes out to my mother for what she must have experienced. I wish I could tell her that now. When parents die young, you become old before your time, living in the past with them, in memory." These stories were written over 20 years; some are reprints, while others are published for the first time. Recommended for their gracefulness, insight, and emotional content. Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. Lib. Sys., Harrisburg, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.