"She made her living selling words. . . . Her prices were fair. For five centavos she delivered verses from memory; for seven she improved the quality of dreams; for nine she wrote love letters; for 12 she invented insults for irreconcilable enemies."

Thus Isabel Allende describes a character in one of her stories - and describes herself as well.Allende makes her living with words that are poetic, dreamlike and full of passion. "The Stories of Eva Luna" are short tales of love, or suffering, or revenge. The best story in the book, "The Judge's Wife," is about all three. It's a stunner.

This is the Chilean author's first book of stories. Allende lives in San Francisco now, but her stories come from Latin America. They are vivid.

North Americans who have read the English translations of her novels - "House of Spirits," "Of Love and Shadows" and "Eva Luna" - know what to expect from Allende, and won't be disappointed by her latest work.

Readers who love the short story form, whether they've read Allende before or not, are going to be delighted with this collection.

Allende populates her pages with characters, some of whom will be familiar from the novel "Eva Luna." There's the honest man who owns the village store. There's a wicked girl who roams at night like a ghost through her own house.

There's a prostitute and the lean, tenacious man who loves her. There's a drunk. A saint. A faithful husband. A native man who helps a woman die, so her soul can find release.

But beyond the characters, even better than the characters, are the plots of Allende's stories. Many modern writers see plots as an old-fashioned device. Allende makes the reader remember how satisfying a tight plot is, how good it feels to have the story resolved.

Let other writers chronicle the small details - Allende describes the central moment in her characters' lives. We see them when, after a lifetime, they find love. Or learn they are stupid. Or finally achieve respectability.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez said, "A novelist can wait around for the decision, but a short-story writer has to win by knockout." Allende has some knockouts in this latest book.


(Additional information)

Allende to visit S.L.

Isabel Allende is coming to Salt Lake City for one afternoon this week. On Tuesday, Feb. 5, she'll be signing copies of her books, including the new "Stories of Eva Luna," at The King's English Bookstore, 1511 S. 1500 East, between 5 and 7 p.m . Since space is limited for the reading, reservations will be necessary. Call 484-9100.