It is hard to say how it started - all the unexplained little signs of a new baby about the house in 'The Silent Cradle' - but soon none of the O'Bannons could deny that there had been a highly irregular addition to the family. In 'Max Haunting' a middle-aged hippie, preserved almost intact from the Sixties, starts showing up on the doorsteps of his old friends and loves who, in acquiring jobs and furniture, have 'sold out' rather less than he thought. Hauntings of curious varieties continue in other stories: the sort manufactured out of glass by a man who thinks his godly wife deserves a miracle; the visitation of a mother's cruelty into the mind of her daughter as she confronts the frustrations of coping with her own child; the specters of opportunities lost or spurned which nag to be laid, like ghosts.
Elsewhere Leigh Kennedy considers the impulse of cannibalism in a future world whose greed has induced ecological upheaval, and the phenomenon of speaking in tongues as investigated by a sociology professor. She views the world through the eyes of a victim of seizures and of a primatologist whose devotion to apes has gone a bit too far.
The theme of "faces'' runs like a current beneath the deceptively calm surface of Kennedy's (The Journal of Nicholas the American 10 disquieting tales. Outstanding is the chilling story ``River Baby.'' It shows Maxine, a deserted, harried mother driven to drown her small daughter, whose blurry face confronts her from the bath water. Drugged with horror, yet strangely distanced, Maxine becomes obsessed with memories of her own Mama. In ``The Window Jesus'' it rankles Velma, a middle-aged farm woman, that her neighbor has seen the Savior in her screen door, so Velma's husband fashions an optical glass that will do the trick. With ``Her Furry Face,'' Kennedy carries her gift for the comic grotesque even further. Vulnerable Douglas, who has trouble with women, falls disastrously in love with Annie, an astonishingly literate female orangutan in the primate training-lab where Douglas works. ``Belling Martha'' tips over into futurist fantasy with a bleak vision of cannibalism in America. Kennedy's language is disingenuously plain, to the point of sounding nonchalant, and her endings trail off, but the total effect is strong and stealthy.