BOOKLIST, June 2010
Cold Snap: Bulgaria Stories.By Cynthia Morrison Phoel.2010. 240p. Southern Methodist, $22.50 (9780870745614).
Phoel’s first collection of stories and a novella incisively dramatizes the interlocked lives of the beleaguered denizens of a Bulgarian town. Phoel spent time in Bulgaria as a Peace Corps volunteer, but one gets no sense of an outsider looking in. Instead, she fully inhabits the minds of her jittery characters as they grapple with various forms of family pressure, poverty, and the maddening cold. Young Dobrin’s brow is becoming permanently furrowed as he worries about his overworked mother and cavalier father, as a giant satellite dish funnels a nonstop stream of soccer and porn into their humble and frigid apartment. Galia has been utterly passive, but now that she’s pregnant, mutinous thoughts are brewing. Mathematician Plamen is plagued by self-loathing. In charge of central heating, Nasko is besieged. With the fierce cold serving as a metaphor for the deep social freeze of this long tyrannized land, Phoel is as confident as the great Russian writer Gogol in her acid humor and insightful portrayals of people who “could endure anything,” making for an unusually commanding and affecting debut. —Donna Seaman
A Chicago Public Radio interview:
Eight Forty-Eight - Author Cynthia Morrison Phoel's 'Cold Snap'