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A heavy-hitting emotional exploration of the ways lives can change in single moments.

Foster (God Is an Astronaut, 2014) explores people and relationships on the razor’s edge in this collection of moving short stories.

In each of the seven stories that make up this slim volume, the author places the reader directly into a workaday reality on the very cusp of changing forever. In the opening story, “The Theory of Clouds,” a couple’s secret is discovered when a group of outsiders arrives in a small, suspicious town. The title story zeroes in on a woman looking for direction while working the early shift at a local swimming pool. “The Place of the Holy” takes place at a home-turned–women’s shelter, where a young girl struggles to get the attention she needs from her mother. In concise and moving stories, the author creates compelling and unique characters with rich histories in the space of just a few pages. But what makes this collection electric is the endings. Each story cuts away just as it becomes clear that these people’s worlds have been changed, that the breaking point has been reached, and that whatever happens next could determine the course of their lives. Foster leaves each story at the exact moment when the reader wants more, a decision that could be woefully disappointing if not for her masterful use of tension and language. These short stories are brief windows opening into private moments of hope, pain, and struggle, and the decision to leave the reader guessing about what happens next underlines the universality of such quiet, impactful experiences.

A heavy-hitting emotional exploration of the ways lives can change in single moments.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62040-543-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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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In a word: magnificent.

Retrospect and resolution, neither fully comprehended nor ultimately satisfying: such are the territories the masterful Munro explores in her tenth collection.

Each of its eight long tales in the Canadian author’s latest gathering (after Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, 2001, etc.) bears a one-word title, and all together embrace a multiplicity of reactions to the facts of aging, changing, remembering, regretting, and confronting one’s mortality. Three pieces focus on Juliet Henderson, a student and sometime teacher of classical culture, who waits years (in “Chance”) before rediscovering romantic happiness with the middle-aged man with whom she had shared an unusual experience during a long train journey. In “Soon,” Juliet and her baby daughter Penelope visit Juliet’s aging parents, and she learns how her unconventional life has impacted on theirs. Then, in “Silence,” a much older Juliet comes sorrowfully to terms with the emptiness in her that had forever alienated Penelope, “now living the life of a prosperous, practical matron” in a world far from her mother’s. Generational and familial incompatibility also figure crucially in “Passion,” the story (somewhat initially reminiscent of Forster’s Howards End) of a rural girl’s transformative relationship with her boyfriend’s cultured, “perfect” family—and her realization that their imperfections adumbrate her own compromised future. Further complexities—and borderline believable coincidences and recognitions—make mixed successes of “Trespasses,” in which a young girl’s unease about her impulsive parents is shown to stem from a secret long kept from her, and “Tricks,” an excruciatingly sad account of a lonely girl’s happenstance relationship with the immigrant clockmaker she meets while attending a Shakespeare festival, the promise she tries and helplessly fails to keep, and the damaging misunderstanding that, she ruefully reasons, “Shakespeare should have prepared her.” Then there are the masterpieces: the title story’s wrenching portrayal of an emotionally abused young wife’s inability to leave her laconic husband; and the brilliant novella “Powers,” which spans years and lives, a truncated female friendship that might have offered sustenance and salvation, and contains acute, revelatory discriminations between how women and men experience and perceive “reality.”

In a word: magnificent.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-4281-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004

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