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All This Heavenly Glory    by Elizabeth Crane order for
All This Heavenly Glory
by Elizabeth Crane
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Elizabeth Crane's short stories alternate between a child's wary negotiation of the traps and pitfalls (including divorced parents, sexual predators, and friends who inappropriately decorate their dolls) of New York daily life, with a young woman's equally wary negotiation of the older equivalents (including sexual predators and quirky peer relationships). As I read, I wondered how much of the life of Charlotte Anne Byers reflects the author's own experiences.

In the same stream of consciousness style as Crane presented in When the Messenger is Hot, she shares with us all the absurdities of relationships, beginning with the wordiest personal ad imaginable, one that is devastatingly frank. It begins 'SWF, above average on a really good day, on a bad day still fairly cute ...' and goes on for ten pages (the resumé tucked in the middle is hilarious). That's followed by a view of Charlotte Anne as a precocious child opera singer ('Urchin #2'), preoccupied as much by a chocolate mint melting into her costume as by her crush on Dane DiMedici.

There's a slimy encounter with 'Howard the Filmmaker' for a grown-up (alcohol abusing) Charlotte Anne (who eventually morphs into Charlie), and a series of weird New York play dates for the child - one friend has a physically abusive stepfather, while another dad might be a pedophile. 'About the Dime' presents the point of view of a child of divorced parents. There are a bunch of potential boyfriend stories, including 'a lengthy insane boyfriend story', as well as the endearingly honest history of Charlie's best friendship with Jenna Ritter that began in seventh grade.

Here's one from the title story that says a lot about Charlie's character and Crane's writing - 'I need one more male friend I've dated who eventually tells me about all the other women he loves like I need a spike through my skull.' Covering 9/11 along the way ('Go back to being exactly the same as before, only different'), the collection ends on an upbeat note with the nostalgic 'Football' - 'In my next life I want to accept things as they are and when people ask why I want to say what do you mean why and when everyone comes back for homecoming I want to already be home.'

All This Heavenly Glory is an engagingly vulnerable, lightly punctuated monologue on childhood and adult relationships and fantasies - a creative commentary on the ups and downs of life.

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