Travel at Home and Abroad

Key West is known for the artists who’ve lived there, and Rosalind Brackenbury is one to add to that list of writers we think of when we think of the place. A number of Brackenbury’s stories in Between Man and Woman Keys take place in Key West, and, like the author, the narrator in many of them is a transplanted Brit who found her way to this steamy, tropical Key below the coast of Florida. Some of the stories are set in Europe, but they too appear to be narrated by the same woman who now lives in the tropics.

In “The Forty-Ninth Lot Joke,” Imogen, the narrator tells her daughter about attempting to revolutionize her life when she was a young mother and wife. After inviting friends and family to live communally with them in a rented home in France’s Lot Valley, Imogen can’t shake the fact that her life’s not the one she’d expected, and breaks free to find herself—and any adventures she can uncover. “Between Man and Woman Keys” brings us close to Cuba in the company of two desperate young men who’ve taken matters into their own hands. This title story has love and sex and yearning, and loss that can come with a shift in the wind. “Chloe’s Pool” finds respite at a neighbor’s luxurious pool, one to retreat to and one that reflects the political, social, and geographical climate of Key West in the summer. “Nothing Works in Homestead” is a tribute to and investigation of the characters who travel to the Keys to cash in after a hurricane’s hit. “Cuba Run” takes us on an intimate and humanitarian sea voyage to Cuba to deliver supplies. The crew of two young women and three men arrive in Cuba and all have adventures and some have awakenings. It’s a view into Cuba, its social injustices, and the way politics can twist our best—and our so-so—intentions. “The Knowledge” looks at two boys—one in a wheelchair—who are mostly alone and making their sketchy way in the world, sidestepping disaster and good fortune alike. And “Instead of the Revolution” brings us back to France, Imogen, and her daughter, and a return to the idea of finding out who we are, even if just for a time.

The stories in Between Man and Woman Keys take us on adventures in France, London, Cuba, and Key West, but we’re not tourists on these trips abroad or at home. We’re taken where locals live—see their inner worlds and outward ones—and given intimate glimpses into the inner workings of the people who live there and the places they go.

Between Man and Woman Keys
by Rosalind Brackenbury
ISBN 1-880284-52-9,
paperback, $12.95

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