News from the Volcano is a collection of five poignant stories about wanderers and outsiders, people searching for an unnamed something that is missing from their lives. Set in the Southwest, a landscape of vivid contrasts and powerful forces, the stories unravel the struggles of these who find themselves in extreme situations, looking and listening desperately for whatever might save them from self-destruction.
"Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn" introduces Rachel Lerner, a young girl growing up in a Jewish family from the East that, lured by dreams of success, has resettled in New Mexico near the end of World War II. The household is overshadowed by the mother's unhappiness in an isolated mountain town amid people she finds raw and by the father's mounting suspicions that his business associate is stealing from him. Rachel must weave a path for herself through the conflicting emotions of her parents while also recognizing and confronting the forces at play in the larger world.
In "Sloan's Daughter" the protagonist confronts the spiritual emptiness of his political aspirations as they are shaped by the corruption of the past. The rebellious young daughter forces Sloan to recognize the questionable history of his family's manipulative and reckless pursuit of personal gain. In the title story, Lupe is faced with a violent death, but refuses to acquiesce to the chain of violence surrounding that confrontation.
All of the characters are crafted with the remarkable realism readers have come to expect from Gladys Swan. The stories are gripping and their resolutions powerful. Taking the reader on tough journeys through rough country, both physically and psychologically, News from the Volcano is a masterful collection by an exceptional writer.