An entrancing collection, recommended even for those who generally shy away from short story.

THE LAST ANIMAL

Human predicaments are complemented by the wild natural world in this excellent debut story collection from Chicago-based author Geni.

The characters and events here are unusual and far-reaching, but Geni’s careful craftsmanship renders them immediate and real. Each story is threaded with page-turning, deeply felt tension, yet each has also been planted with a seed of magic in varying stages of growth. In the collection’s award-winning piece, “Captivity,” the narrator works at the Chicago Aquarium, specializing in octopuses, which she feeds in-tank, wetsuit-clad, while haunted by her missing brother. In “Terror Birds,” an ordinary family drama plays out with high stakes on an ostrich farm in the desert. “Isaiah on Sunday” and “In the Spirit Room” explore the loss of parents; “Landscaping” (the seed of magic here growing away from realism into striking lyricism) and “Fire Blight” show heartache from the parents’ sides. Broken families are a theme, and the people in these stories experience the fallout with unflinching awareness. Likewise, Geni is not afraid to make readers sit with an uncomfortable situation or watch characters struggle with difficult decisions. “Dharma at the Gate” follows a teenage girl and her dog as she contemplates a relationship that’s holding her back; readers will ache for her freedom. “The Girls of Apache Bryn Mawr” has an anonymous narrator—the protagonists are bunked together in a camp cabin the summer their counselor disappears. “The Last Animal” and “Silence” center on older characters looking for a kind of closure, and both have a quieter tension. 

An entrancing collection, recommended even for those who generally shy away from short story.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61902-182-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

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

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THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY

THE FINCA VIGIA EDITION

What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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