The in-laws are a steady, insistent, increasingly frantic chorus of disapproval over her plans. But, Mary! How can you expect to go to college and take good care of a husband and a baby?


Finally, We're going to put our foot down!


She knows that somehow she has got to extricate herself from these sappy folks.


* Mary Clerman Blew,


from All But the Waltz, reprinted in The Stories That Shape Us





What do the writers Patricia Nelson Limerick, Terry Tempest Williams, Judith Freeman and Judith Barrington have in common? Each has been shaped by a Western landscape and a regional culture, although the impact is expressed in wildly different ways. It takes courage to tell stories where there has been silence before, editor Teresa Jordan tells us in her introduction to this masterful collection of essays, The Stories That Shape us: Contemporary Women Write about the West . From Mary Clerman Blew, the Montanan who went on to combine motherhood with a doctorate in English literature, to Kathleen Norris, a poet who celebrates rural isolation and community in South Dakota, 26 writers explore how women have struggled to understand the West they were born into or chose. This diverse collection is co-edited by James Hepworth.


W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Ave. New York, NY 10110. 396 pages, 1995. $23.