Suzanne Rivecca

Suzanne Rivecca sticks by that age-old adage of write what you know. The protagonists in her excellent debut story collection, Death Is Not an Option (Norton, $23.95), generally share certain defining traits—a stifling Catholic upbringing, an uncertain early adulthood, a wavering faith, and a budding sense of self. One can easily imagine Rivecca as a Catholic schoolgirl pondering the same questions that, years later, her young female characters would also confront. There’s an intimacy to her stories that rings true—even if you weren’t a Catholic schoolgirl yourself. In Death we meet a young woman facing an uncle who molested her as a child, a girl bizarrely harassed by a man she barely knows, and a high-school senior who can’t stop crying at the thought of leaving the town she thought she hated. The San Francisco-based Rivecca renders these figures with searing empathy and authority. In “Look, Ma, I’m Breathing,” she writes, “[Isabel] knew that nothing would ever come out of her more purely or clearly than things like this: these distilled episodes, these illuminated lamentations, sculpted in all the right places, these testimonies of harm.” Reading these stories, you can’t help but feel a bond with these women, to wish them out of their troubles and into better straits. ERIN K. THOMPSON

Tue., July 13, 7:30 p.m.; Thu., July 15, 7:30 p.m., 2010

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