Test Design

Coffee House Press 2000
ISBN I-56689-100-0

The moods in Garden Primitives range from still to explosive, the language from poetic and sensual to coarse. What these stories have in common is a passionate allegiance to both the heart and the intellect.

The cinematic eye of Sosin’s roving narrators leads us through the snowy, suburban decay of a family on a perfect winter night; into the narrow but honest mind of a farmer being bowled over by urban sprawl; to the beach, where a woman’s life becomes hyper-focused on the survival of a turtle nest; around a campfire on a north woods vacation where the gaps between parents and children, friends and lovers widen; and through gardens both vegetable and glassed where the language is as fertile as what grows there.

If short stories were photographs, the 12 in Danielle Sosin’s first book would be of a dreamily old-fashioned variety – small shiny squares framed in white, their corners held down by delicate paper points. This isn’t to say that Sosin’s stories aren’t vivid. They’re often told with the symbolic language of a poet, and they tend to leave you with a lucid view into a world, a moment, a mind. In “Still Life,” an unemployed woman stares out at the world from her window, one glance framing the sleep-swollen faces of two small brothers. “You want to protect them, to cover their ears, to pull the glass shards out of their dreams.” She must look away. In “Internal Medicine,” a woman – lying on her back, legs spread, talking several medical students through the fine points of giving a proper gynecologic exam – thinks back to the moment she and her son’s father told him they were separating. She recalls: “He crumpled to the floor as if his bones had broken all at once. “The teenager in “What Mark Couldn’t See” feels such an intense yearning for family truth that for him – as for many of Sosin’s characters – being alive can feel as painful as looking open-eyed into the sun. Like a camera’s aperture set to blink just long enough to admit the exact amount of light for a perfect picture, Sosin’s economical and delicate stories capture unexpected moments of beauty and clarity.”

–Victoria L. Tilney, Books in Brief, 
The New York Times Book Review, May 14, 2000