In Lost Women, Banished Souls, Garnett Kilberg Cohen captures the voices of a variety of women who share one main characteristic--the sense of loss. Although most of these women are like the ones we see every day without giving much thought to the undercurrents of their lives, Cohen shows us how women who appear ordinary on the surface often live extraordinary private lives. With the activities and relationships of her stories' characters, Cohen demonstrates how fragile life is, how everyday decisions can change the direction of one's life, and how much more painful our failures of ourselves can be than our failures to meet others' expectations.
Cohen's characters are honest about the pains they feel. In "Cousin Rina's Return," the story's narrator describes her sense of loss when her own transition from child to teenager changes the magical view she held of her cousins. "Guests" deals with the permanent scars left on one woman's mind and identity by the experience of multiple rape. In the title story the main character, confronting the painful loss of a longtime friend, realizes that her life has been filled with a sequence of lost friends.
These stories also explore such social issues as domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, and child-rearing after divorce. Cohen's language ranges from lyrical evocations of the past to the informal, conversational style of folk tradition.
Lost Women, Banished Souls introduces an author who has the rare ability to describe honestly and beautifully the struggles within the souls of her varied female characters.