Well-crafted works of fiction full of arresting images, insightful descriptions, and emotional resonance.


A collection of 11 previously published short stories, many of which portray failing relationships. 

Parrett (Montana Americana Music, 2016, etc.) opens with the masterful, deeply affecting “Side of the Road,” in which an unnamed narrator recounts his troubling interactions with his abusive, alcoholic father. The latter eventually finds work removing detritus from the roadways of Montana. An early scene involves a dead moose and demonstrates Parrett’s skill with sensory detail: “The blood was frosting over on the highway when we got there, but it was still sticky enough to coat my boots like paint. I left red prints, one foot in front of the other, on top of the white shoulder stripe as the two of them gutted the carcass.” Purposeful ambiguity is another evocative feature of Parrett’s style; for example, the aforementioned narrator reveals that he was 19 when he last saw his parents but not why he never saw them again. Consequently, later goodbyes are heart-wrenching in their simplicity, and what the narrator does with an object that his father gives him effectively brings the story full circle. By contrast, the title character in “Evelyn’s Footprints” has a childhood full of wonder and discovery, anchored by a tender rapport with her widowed father, although the tale’s ending is similarly ambiguous. Other standouts include the raw “The Stars Threw Down Their Spears,” in which a woman blames her boyfriend for her dog’s gruesome death, and the contemplative “Thirteen Things I Have Sold on EBay,” which neatly captures the pathos of an ended marriage. As an added bonus, debut illustrator Roby offers images of wood engravings that visually support each story. If there’s a drawback to this collection, it’s that a few entries don’t pack enough of a punch. For instance, “Sicilian Defense” uses chess as a metaphor for power relations between partners Nathan and Jared, but the bellicose, territorial language used to describe a sex act seems forced, and a final utterance of “Checkmate” is predictable and unnecessary.

Well-crafted works of fiction full of arresting images, insightful descriptions, and emotional resonance.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9976006-3-6

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Territorial Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


Superb stylist L’Amour returns (End of the Drive, 1997, etc.), albeit posthumously, with ten stories never seen before in book form—and narrated in his usual hard-edged, close-cropped sentences, jutting up from under fierce blue skies. This is the first of four collections of L’Amour material expected from Bantam, edited by his daughter Angelique, featuring an eclectic mix of early historicals and adventure stories set in China, on the high seas, and in the boxing ring, all drawing from the author’s exploits as a carnival barker and from his mysterious and sundry travels. During this period, L’Amour was trying to break away from being a writer only of westerns. Also included is something of an update on Angelique’s progress with her father’s biography: i.e., a stunningly varied list of her father’s acquaintances from around the world whom she’d like to contact for her research. Meanwhile, in the title story here, a missionary’s daughter who crashes in northern Asia during the early years of the Sino-Japanese War is taken captive by a nomadic leader and kept as his wife for 15 years, until his death. When a plane lands, she must choose between taking her teenaged son back to civilization or leaving him alone with the nomads. In “By the Waters of San Tadeo,” set on the southern coast of Chile, Julie Marrat, whose father has just perished, is trapped in San Esteban, a gold field surrounded by impassable mountains, with only one inlet available for anyone’s escape. “Meeting at Falmouth,” a historical, takes place in January 1794 during a dreadful Atlantic storm: “Volleys of rain rattled along the cobblestones like a scattering of broken teeth.” In this a notorious American, unnamed until the last paragraph, helps Talleyrand flee to America. A master storyteller only whets the appetite for his next three volumes.

Pub Date: May 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-10963-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet