The Left-Handed Marriage
In her first book of fiction, Bienen moves knowledgeably and engagingly from African tales to domestic comedy. The Left-Handed Marriage, Leigh Buchanan Bienen's debut collection of fiction, ranges widely in subject matter, tone, and locale, from legal drama to domestic comedy, from Kampala and Shanghai to Trenton, New Jersey.
"Leigh Buchanan Bienen's stories are wise and accomplished. Yet what distinguishes them, perhaps, is their variety. Whether writing from the point of view of a West African Gray Parrot, or offering a Dreiserian rendering of the life of a present-day executioner, Bienen presents a vision distinguished by its range and supported by powerful narrative gifts."
"A stunning book by a stunningly gifted writer. With the fearlessness of a first-rate lawyer (which she also is), Leigh Buchanan Bienen renders intimately and brilliantly, the basic truths: life and death, good and evil. Within forcibly formed worlds of actual and real power, each remarkable story in the Left-Handed Marriage burns bright—strikes deep—in the heart of what makes us distinctly human."
"The stories of Bienen's first book demonstrate an eye for detail and nuance in human relationships and cultural differences. In the story that lends its title to the collection, a charming and affable, if self-absorbed, lawyer agrees to his wife's suggestion that he take a second, younger wife, who can give him a son. She has dreamy recollections of time spent in Kenya, where she met the European first wife of a Kenyan who thereafter practiced his culture's time-honored tradition of polygamy, in which the European wife managed to thrive, nevertheless. In New York, the story's setting, however, an analogous arrangement fails to satisfy. In another story, a world-weary, cynical account of life and lost affections, an aging parrot notes his latest owner's growing negligence and recalls past relationships and travails. In further stories, the journal of a dance troupe member visiting China reveals telling cultural and personal differences, and the cultural mixture of a seedy gypsy circus in politically turbulent Kampala enables insights into anonymity and emotional confusion."
—Vanessa Bush © American Library Association