“Stories like time bombs” proclaims the cover blurb, a description that is right on target. In one narrative after another, the simple truths of life explode off the pages: the truth about family, about marriage, about growing up and about growing old. With prose that is crisp and elegant and lacking in all pretense, Carpenter portrays ordinary people faced with life’s dilemmas and forced to make profound decisions.
In the title story, the earth acts like a lover, desperate to keep the estranged members of one family from levitating into clouds of rapturous glory. Another, “The Phrasebook,” uses the metaphor of language to catalog the dissolution of a marriage in less than two pages. With equal brevity, “Foundering” chronicles the full circle of a couple’s life together in a simple recounting of the houses and abodes shared over the course of their relationship.
Touching on a wide range of human experience, Carpenter brings the reader face to face with the yearnings and fears of life, the desire for something more that prompts our every deed. More than a compilation of stories, This Jealous Earth is a gift of delight and surprise; it is a tweak of memory and a glance in the mirror.