JoAnne Soper-Cook is such a spell-binding storyteller that she can lead her willing captives almost anywhere. In her new story collection, The Opium Lady, she draws her readers into the far corners of human yearning.
The Opium Lady resembles a photo album of an extensive family, with a picture at the beginning of each story. The snapshots were taken between perhaps 1910 and 1955, and most of the events in the stories are contemporary with the snapshots, but a curious atmosphere of the present day hovers over all and finds its way into the narrator's voice.
Soon shadowy connections appear, and it becomes clear that in some way the narrator herself is implicated. Among the motley cast are rich people and poor people, men, women, and children, the scandalizers and the scandalized, housewives and farmers, tradesmen, charlatans, and ne'er-do-wells. It's clear that there are connections and that all of the pieces fit together, but Soper-Cook hands over the missing link only at the end of this fascinating book, once the narrator's identity and secret are revealed.
"A fractious tale of alarming tones that echo the past and consume the present ... ripe with disillusion and familiarity."
"Intense and intriguing."