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When the Women Come Out to Dance by Elmore Leonard


Rating: (Recommended)


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Elmore Leonard writes with mastery in his new short story collection, When the Women Come Out to Dance. Readers demand a lot from Leonard, and he delivers consistently. Here’s an excerpt (pp. 24-5) from the title story:

Sitting out here in the evening several times a week when the doctor didn't come home, Mrs. Mahmood trying hard to make it seem they were friends, Mrs. Mahmood serving daiquiris in round crystal goblets, waiting on her personal maid. It was nice to be treated this way and it would continue, Lourdes believed, until Mrs. Mahmood finally came out and said what was on her mind, what she wanted Lourdes to do for her.

The work was nothing, keep the woman's clothes in order, water the houseplants, fix lunch for herself—and the maids, once they came in the kitchen sniffing her spicy seafood dishes. Lourdes had no trouble talking to them. They looked right at her face telling her things. Why they avoided Dr. Mahmood. Because he would ask very personal questions about their sexual lives. Why they thought Mrs. Mahmood was crazy. Because of the way she danced in just her underwear.

And in the evening the woman of the house would tell Lourdes of being bored with her life, not able to invite her friends in because Woz didn't approve of them.

"What do I do? I hang out. I listen to music. I discuss soap operas with the gook maids. Melda stops me. ‘Oh, missus, come quick.' They're in the laundry room watching As the World Turns. She goes, ‘Dick follows Nikki to where she is to meet Ryder, and it look like he was going to hurt her. But Ryder came there in time to save Nikki from a violent Dick.' "

Mrs. Mahmood would tell a story like that and look at her without an expression on her face, waiting for Lourdes tosmile or laugh. But what was funny about the story?

"What do I do?" was the question she asked most. "I exist, I have no life."

"You go shopping."

"Thats all."

"You play golf."

"You've gotta be kidding."

"You go out with your husband."

"To an Indian restaurant and I listen to him talk to the manager. How many times since you've been here has he come home in the evening? He has a girlfriend," the good-looking redheaded woman said. "He’s with her all the time. Her or another one, and doesn't care that I know. He’s rubbing it in my face. All guys fool around at least once in a while. Woz and his buddies live for it. It’s accepted over there, where they're from. A guy gets tired of his wife in Pakistan? He burns her to death. Or has it done. I'm not kidding, he tells everyone her dupatta caught fire from the stove."

Lourdes said, "Ah, that’s why you don't cook."

"Among other reasons. Woz’s from Rawalpindi, a town where forty women a month show up at the hospital with terrible burns. If the woman survives . . . Are you listening to me?"

Lourdes was sipping her daiquiri. "Yes, of course."

"If she doesn't die, she lives in shame because her husband, this prick who tried to burn her to death, kicked her out of the fucking house. And he gets away with it. Pakistan, India, thousands of women are burned every year 'cause their husbands are tired of them, or they didn't come up with a big enough dowry."

The usual rawness that Leonard captures appears in each story. There’s never a mis-spoken word, and when you finish reading When the Women Come Out to Dance, you’ll want to start over again.

Steve Hopkins, February 27, 2002


ã 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the March 2003 issue of Executive Times

URL for this review: the Women Come Out to Dance.htm


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