From Meaning to Desire
by Douglas Uzzell

"Then you know why it's so important to me to rebuild my connection with Cindy and her baby."

This is a collection of short stories revolving around Lillian Stallings, a thirty-eight year old woman who, despite being a math teacher in the Houston Independent School District, a wife, a mother, and most recently a grandmother, is entrenched in an identity crisis that is only fueled by her relapse into alcoholism. Her encounter with Louis Fontinot, a motel owner with a colorful history of occupations (i.e. carnival prizefighter) gives meaning to her existence. Stallings and Fontinot, the central characters who are driven by hope but undoubtedly possess clear flaws, are what make the book interesting and relatable to the masses.

These characters and their history, coupled with the narrative being set in Shreveport, Louisiana during a time of deep racial tension, will certainly pique the interest of historical-fiction aficionados. Whether it’s a new setting, being away from her husband Gerald, or being around Fontinot, Stallings unyielding curiosity and rebellious nature is out in the open, and she generally puts herself or her supporters in dicey situations such as the aftermath of the H-E-B mart sit-in. Readers will find references to the Ku Klux Klan, the Coushatta massacre, and the civil rights movement, but at its core, From Meaning to Desire is a tale of resurrection, rediscovery, and hope.

While the plot has the potential to hold one’s attention, as does the character of Louis Fontinot and others, it is the depth of Lillian Stallings' character that keeps the readers turning the pages. We wonder how a stellar math teacher becomes an alcoholic. We observe the dynamic relationship between a thirty-eight-year-old mother and her nineteen-year-old teen daughter—a new mother, and we note how Stallings seemingly fits right at home with Fontinot and company in Shreveport. Stallings is multifaceted and engaging throughout the collection.

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