HOT LITTLE HANDS by Abigail Ulman


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A vivid collection of short stories about young girls and women on the cusp of major life changes.

In her debut collection, Australian writer Ulman offers us glimpses into the lives of seven women between adolescence and 30, most of whom are making choices without thorough thought of repercussion. Waggish but weighty, these stories render the mundane and the momentous in equal measure. Claire, a Ph.D. candidate and a tambourine player in the band Betty Cooper’s Revenge, is the only recurring protagonist—she appears in “The Withdrawal Method,” “The Pretty One,” and “Your Charm Won’t Help You Here.” Often reckless, Claire faces in turn unwanted pregnancy, heartbreak, and Homeland Security. Anya, of “Jewish History,” is a postwar immigrant from Russia confronted not only with the dynamics of assimilation, but with the consequences of kissing a crush. In “Same Old Same As,” Romana navigates the murkiness of sexual abuse and the fleeting nature of popularity, learning what comes of both wanted and unwanted attention. “Head to Toe” deftly depicts the apathy and aimlessness of teenagers; Elise and Jenni are torn between sex and horse camp, adulthood and childhood. In each story, the female protagonist must handle a newfound responsibility: her allure, her freedom, her future. It is rare for a collection to so adeptly capture the way life can be at once facile and intense. Ulman’s details are lifelike and droll, her style lucid and engaging, and the overall effect stirring.

Nine short stories, all wry, authentic, and moving.

Pub Date: May 31st, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-8129-8917-5
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2016


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