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Now You See It ...: Stories from Cokesville, PA    by Bathsheba Monk order for
Now You See It ...
by Bathsheba Monk
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2007 (2006)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Lisa Respers France

A writer like Bathsheba Monk comes along all too rarely. The author of seventeen interlocking stories that take place during a span from 1949 to 1994, Monk has crafted a small town that is as whimsical as it is real. Cokesville, PA is a mining town that both repels and lures the protagonist Annie Kusiak who dreams of writing her way out of the confines of her hometown.

The character can be viewed as the fictional counterpart of Monk who was born to a family of Pennsylvania coal miners. Cokesville closely resembles Bethlehem, PA and Monk draws on her own memories when writing of the Polish Catholic families who make their living (sometimes just barely) from the mines. Many authors will tell you that writing short stories is no easy task and that fact just underscores the brilliance of Monk as each of her pieces have just the right amount of detail and believable dialogue to ring true. In this book, you aren't just reading about these characters, you are living with them.

From Theresa Gojuk who christens herself Tess Randall after escaping to Hollywood in hopes of making it as a famous actress and 'who married a black man just to piss off her father, Bruno' to Mrs. Wojic who believes that one of her little yellow dogs is the reincarnation of her dead husband who was flattened by a beam during an accident on the job, Now You See It ... is filled with literally a cast of characters who one almost wishes had standalone novels of their own. Monk breathes life into each of them and deftly connects each of their lives in a fashion much like what exists in small town anywhere USA, where neighbors know as much and as little about the other as is possible.

Many of the stories here are dark, but some are so humorous that they are chuckle worthy. As the reader traces Annie's life from that of a mute child to a divorcée, it's a ride along a rollercoaster of dysfunctional friends and family that is equally absorbing and well crafted. Monk's debut heralds the coming of a fresh new voice in fiction and I for one can't wait for her next outing.

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