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Short Fiction
The Woman Who Never Cooked
by Mary L. Tabor       

Price: $16.00
192 pages
trade paper
ISBN: 0922811687
LCCN #: 2005037908

Mary L. Tabor’s fictions concern sex, adultery, death, and food—in sum, a woman’s life—and take us on a dizzying cook's tour of life’s betrayals. Her characters, facing loss or rejection, go a bit mad in their obsession over what can be hidden and what cannot. All of them cook as antidote to the poison of deception. But what if the woman hidden at the heart of this book discovers one day that she no longer can cook?

"To get to know the heroines of Mary L. Tabor’s The Woman Who Never Cooked, you’ll have to head to the kitchen. From Carolyn, the type-A gourmand whose proofing box parallels her stifling marriage, to Eliot, her husband’s lover, who marks failed relationships by the kitchens she has left behind, the women in Tabor’s first short story collection plot their lives by Viking stoves and tin Foley grinders, rugalach and skin-thin crepes. But Tabor’s collection never surfeits on the sensuality of food, as the real preoccupation of these stories isn’t the stomach—it’s the physical, sexual body, hungry for comfort as it broods on the transcendent relationship between desire, identity, and grief. When facing the death of a parent or a sibling, Tabor’s characters crave the illicit delicacies of trysts as much as comfort foods that stave off sorrow. Navigating family life, they savor foods that celebrate Jewish culture and identity, like the lemon meringue pie whose riddle of a recipe 'The Woman Who Never Cooked' solves in her Talmudic musing, or the challah bread whose family recipe she discovers 'under S for Sonya,' a fabled pogrom survivor. When a story isn’t decked with feasts or intimate meals, Tabor still adeptly tackles issues of anguish, aging and love. In 'Madness and Folly,' music and humor cut through terminal illness’ awkward fog, and grim 'Sine Die' examines loss and disloyalty through postmodern plays-on-words and a roving narrative eye. When food and drink do rise to prominence, it’s in service of story and character. The women concoct meals to make peace with their pasts: a hidden pie that might spark infidelity, hot peppered fish to entice an alliance between an aunt and her motherless niece. In these still, witty stories, Tabor sets a rich table."—Image

"Revealed here are the hidden layers of lives that seem predictable but never are. Reading Tabor's wry tales, one has the sense of entering the private lives of the women you see everyday on your way to work."—Booklist

"It’s the absences that Tabor relies upon—the subject too painful to broach, the person on the bus one sees each day but is afraid to approach—that make these stories stand out. Her terse, direct prose effectively presents the direness of her characters’ dystopia, but it’s the parts she and her characters leave out, the things they don’t do, that imbue this collection with painful honesty without falling into melodrama … The emotions beleaguering the characters are not secrets, but the ways they cope with the emptiness in their lives are well wrought, unique, and surprising. It’s definitely a challenging recipe for a writer’s debut, one that Mary Tabor accomplishes with the expertise of a more experienced master chef.”—Mid-American Review

"This book has an adult sense of wisdom earned through pain, a combination of compassion and narrowed, cold eye, and a clarity of understanding of sexuality I find unique. I loved reading about these women: grown-ups written well are rare. I found the collection richly made, unafraid, full of woundedness and strength."—Frederick Busch

"Mary Tabor writes with astonishing grace, endless passion, and subtle humor. She moves fearlessly into the troubled hearts of her people to explore the territory of loss and betrayal with unparalleled fervor. She is a magician and an inventor, a master of form whose brilliant sleight of hand leaves the reader joyfully bedazzled. Through the power of her vision and the daring agility of her prose, Mary Tabor dances us to the edge of despair only to spin us tenderly toward the light and the radiant transcendence of love."—Melanie Rae Thon

"Mary Tabor writes the 'new' story—witty, edgy, discontent with shopworn wisdom, passionate about the minutiae that reveal the whole of our crooked character, impatient with the easy answer, and fiercely intolerant of the slop and indifference of writers unconcerned with a decidedly moral universe."—Lee K. Abbott

"The Woman Who Never Cooked is a well-prepared eleven-course meal that satisfies after each course. It is best to partake and savor slowly, with a good cup of coffee or a glass of wine."—TallGrass Writers Guild Newsletter

"Eleven stories about ordinary people's hunger for extraordinary human connection … the tension between lost futures and vital memories."—Kirkus Reviews


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