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Book Review: 'News of the Spirit'

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Smith writes some of the most lucid, Southern-accented prose this side of Ellen Gilchrist. If her most successful characters run to a type — aging Southern sorority girls who grew up in families filled with baffled men and histrionic women — that’s more a sociological than a literary observation. It’s not her characters’ biographical data that accounts for Smith’s devoted readership; it’s the wit, sharply observed detail, and the emotional resonance of their lives. In the title story of this collection, for example, a woman risks everything by taking her stuffy fiancé, with his Volvo and well-trained Labrador retriever, to a party thrown by her erratic, unstable brother in a cinder-block home on a dirt road. Will Drew pass the test? Will she? Smith certainly does. A-

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