February 02 , 2009




Sybil Baker’s TALISMANS is a contemporary Heart of Darkness. In its linked stories, Baker’s compelling protagonist, Elise, travels throughout Asia in search of a way to come to terms with the deaths of her first love, her mother, and, especially, her father, a Vietnam vet who drowned in Thailand, where he lived with his second wife and family after abandoning Elise when she was a child. Although it is a harrowing journey, one in which she endures the loss of a lover, an opium habit, and the temptation of suicide, it is also an uplifting journey, as full of light as of darkness. The stories trace Elise’s gradual movement away from what Koreans call han, the ‘longing and sadness for something or someone that you can’t have,’ to jung, a ‘feeling of attachment and affection, no matter what happens.’ By tracing Elise’s achievement of jung, Baker’s stories become powerful talismans against death, loss, and the kind of fear that prevents us from living fully and truly. Read them and you will feel their marvelous magic at work in your heart, mind, and soul.” —David Jauss, author of Black Maps and Alone With All That Could Happen “Sybil Baker writes beautifully of a young woman’s journey to make peace with her past, in spite of being impeded by loss. The felt-life of her settings pulses on every page. The young woman is brave; Sybil Baker is brave, as well, for writing with such keen honesty.” —Patricia Henley, author of Hummingbird House and In the River Sweet
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