BOOK REVIEW / In brief

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The Independent Culture
Greetings from Earth by Scott Bradfield, Picador pounds 14.99. Classic American realism combined with a haunting rendering of interior life. The characters' rich fantasy worlds are fed by the sheer groundedness of their existence: boxes of letters, inherited trinkets, shopping malls and family cars become doorways into liberating otherworlds. A teenage girl left alone by the hospitalisation of her mother becomes absorbed in a strangely passionate relationship with her home; a bored housewife imagines her life as a movie starring Jessica Lange; the chillingly inoffensive Dolores carries out murder as nonchalantly as if she were fixing a milkshake. Each story is a complete world, precisely and humorously caught.

Sun Dial Street by Marti Leimbach, Picador, pounds 8.99. Prodigal Sam returns guiltily to the bosom of his kookie LA family - manic-depressive mother Jewel and anorectic young sister Ginny - and finds himself embroiled in adultery and murder. All comes right in the end, but not before the characters have been pitched over a succession of emotional hurdles. Leimbach writes with verve (the mother, in particular, is a wonderful creation) but the mechanistic plot leaves the reader feeling like a guest who has been invited to a party and walked in on a group therapy session instead.