________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 13 . . . . February 26, 1999

cover The World Beaters.

Ed Kleiman.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 1998.
239 pp., paper, $14.95.
ISBN 1-895449-80-4.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.
Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4

Looking at a family photo taken at his brother's wedding, the narrator of "The Wedding I Never Attended" muses:

There is my family that I'm getting to know better with each second that I gaze at this photo. Do I sense my mother's perseverance in some yet unknown in-law? Or my aunt's darkness in a new cousin I have yet to meet? I gaze at this photo as if at members of a family I've known all my life. I blink and the next moment they are strangers. Yet there was one fleeting moment when I glimpsed their fates.
Have you not glimpsed that moment also? Do you not know this family? And I yours? This larger family at a wedding you and I have never attended? I see them all before me: the groom, the childhood sweetheart, the dark suspicious aunt, the father in the tuxedo, bowler hat and dark polished shoes that he was forced by his wife to buy. And the bride - the radiant stranger entering into our lives, wearing a gown from which all sales tags have been carefully snipped because she fully intends...to be dressed in this gown once more before leaving this earth. That knowledge serves as a dark background from which she emerges in white. It serves, as well, as a centre of strength for this whole photo.

      Even close relatives and friends can be strangers, harboring secrets revealed years later. The World Beaters tells the stories of Michael and Christine friends and family. Despite the title of the eleven story compilation, not everyone is a "world beater," a big success. In fact, some have been beaten by the world. Elaborate conceits, deceits, and fantasies often hide the difficult realities of their lives. Although many of the characters have their roots in the Jewish community of North End Winnipeg, their lies disperse them to Seattle, California, Toronto. They are alternately torn with a need to belong and a need to escape. These are ordinary people, but the stories tell about incidents in their lives which are both typical and transformative: births, deaths, bar mitzvahs, martial break-ups. Kleiman's stories will appeal to a mature reader, capable of appreciating the subtlety of his technique and his quiet mastery of the short story genre.


Joanne Peters is the teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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