Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
February 08, 2008 AT 05:00 AM EST

A stoic, ascetic writer, Lise Erdrich (sister of novelist Louise) spares no sentiment for the characters that inhabit her stories in Night Train, set in the desolate landscape of the towns and Indian reservations of North Dakota and Minnesota. The uneven collection?s most powerful moments focus on alienation: A newlywed sits with her husband in a diner, allowing herself to briefly wonder about ”What will never be”; a long-wed couple?s chasm is widened by the events that lead to a broken screen door. At her sharpest, Erdrich?s tales are hauntingly bleak and brittle, but too often they are simply bleak and boring. B?

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