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Home and exile, memory and yearning, childhood and aging - he themes are timeless, but the moments captured in these exquisitely told lyrical stories of women alone and abroad lie on the edge of the century now ending. In "The Country Road," eight-year-old Cathy moves at a heartbreaking pace through lonely days in a Northern Ireland populated by elderly neighbors and menaced indeterminately by security forces, while the eponymous heroine of "Bronagh" finds herself wrenched from an idyllic sojourn in Andalucia and thrust into a painful homeward trek when her mother falls ill. In "A Banal Stain," a graduate student lodging in a once-grand house in Lyon confronts the ghosts of France's colonial and Vichy past, and in Morocco the twenty-something English painter and her American writer boyfriend of "A Recitation of Nomads" strive to mend their dreams. "The Marriage at Antibes" is an arranged one, of a Middle Eastern political refugee, long settled in France, and his newly arrived bride. At the core of these scrupulously observed, brilliantly realized stories of foreign travel and exotic cultures stand the pull and the power of vital human relationships - between men and women, fathers and daughters, landlords and tenants, husbands and wives.
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