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Hyde portrays forceful, painful collisions between reality and expectation.

Thirteen stories reveal utopia and what we must give up to get there.

Hyde’s scope is wide in this slim volume, as is her style. There's a biblical tale, a historical fiction, a fairy tale reinvention, and a futuristic dystopia. In each distinct setting, characters yearn for the same things. In “The Future Consequences of Present Actions,” we meet Charles Lane, who “has always believed in the perfectibility of man.” After the failure of Fruitlands, a transcendental commune where he lived for two years, Charles moves with his son to a Shaker village. This would-be paradise also proves inadequate, but this time, Charles learns too late the high cost of entry. Rex in “Americans on Mars!” makes a similar bargain for his utopia when he leaves his brothers behind for a chance at a better life on another planet. Inevitably, Hyde’s characters come up against the nature of hope. The narrator of “Ephemera” states it simply, “It’s a dull they both can’t bear to cure.” We see this play out at an environmental oasis, “part school, part eco-base camp,” at a free love commune, and inside a city with a registered trademark for a name, Delight®. Structurally, many stories interrupt the main plot with fragments of a separate text, like lab notes or religious teachings. Sometimes, as in “Bury Me,” the technique can feel formulaic. The secondary text provides easy, predictable metaphors. But just as often, it resonates with and against the characters’ arcs. In “The Future Consequences of Present Actions,” the Shaker teachings give Charles Lane’s suffering a weight that feels real.

Hyde portrays forceful, painful collisions between reality and expectation.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-60938-443-2

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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