Maclin Bocock is indeed a citizen of the world, and through her stories, the reader travels from Virginia barns to Parisian bedrooms, from autobiography to magical realism and, eventually, to the end of civilization as we know it. It's a long, far-ranging journey, but if the reader can handle a few bumpy transitions--even in some cases, the literary equivalent of whiplash--they'll find this book well worth the trip. In the first section, nostalgic stories of a Southern girlhood explore the irrevocable divide between black and white worlds. In "The Funeral," for instance, a black servant fakes her own death and tells the narrator she's a witch. ("After midnight, several times a week, she raised her bedroom window and flew about the town doing nice things for people. 'Don't you ever go out the front door?' Aretha thought for a moment. 'No. I got to have the elevation.'") "Play Me 'Stormy Weather,' Please" takes a more tragic turn, as a young girl is forced to renounce an interracial friendship the adult world won't tolerate.
The book's subsequent sections veer farther and farther from these down-home roots, using their dazzling settings (Morocco, Mexico, and France) to show off a variety of techniques, from surrealism to psychological suspense. "The Baker's Daughter" is a Russian fable that contains elements of fairy tale, history, tragedy, and even farce--most notably when the lovers first meet, as the hero's mount drops dead in its tracks: "How many soon-to-be lovers have exchanged their first words over the body of a dead horse?" "La Humanidad" envisions a grim postapocalyptic world, while the title story is a riveting tale of espionage and one woman's search for identity. Simply put, Bocock is never the same writer twice. Not every one of these stories works perfectly, but their very diversity is a commendable feat of courage and imagination. --Chloe Byrne