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In fact, all that can be expected from these economical, expertly told stories is that they’re near peerless, modern...

Top-shelf collection by Canadian Nobelist Munro, perhaps the best writer of short stories in English today.

Certainly few, if any, narrators are less trustworthy than Munro’s; among many other things, she is the ascended master of quiet betrayals, withheld information and unforeseeable reversals of fortune. “We say of some things that they can’t be forgiven,” says the thoughtful narrator of “Dear Life,” the closing story, “or that we will never forgive ourselves. But we do—we do it all the time.” Yes, we do, but not without torment. Fiona, the protagonist of “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” the stunning story that is the heart of Sarah Polley’s great film Away From Her, cannot be blamed for causing the pain she does: Dementia has overtaken her, but even so, her husband can't help but wonder whether “she isn’t putting on some kind of a charade.” People put on acts, of course, all the time, and Munro seems to be telling us (as at the very opening of the sly story “The Eye”) that we bamboozle each other from the moment we can understand language—and not necessarily for any malicious reasons. Munro packs plenty of compact but lethal punches, many of them hidden in seemingly gentle words: “I have not kept up with Charlene. I don’t even remember how we said good-bye.” Well, yes, she does, because “[y]ou expected things to end,” and all that catches up to the chief player in “Child’s Play” when she’s called upon to say goodbye again. As is true of so many of Munro’s tales, taken straight from the pages of quotidian life, its end is heartbreaking, tragic, not a little mysterious—and entirely unexpected.

In fact, all that can be expected from these economical, expertly told stories is that they’re near peerless, modern literary fiction at its very best.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-101-87410-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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 thirty-one stories of the late Flannery O'Connor, collected for the first time. In addition to the nineteen stories gathered in her lifetime in Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965) and A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955) there are twelve previously published here and there. Flannery O'Connor's last story, "The Geranium," is a rewritten version of the first which appears here, submitted in 1947 for her master's thesis at the State University of Iowa.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1971

ISBN: 0374515360

Page Count: 555

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1971

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