Challenging, contemporary short stories with sharp feminist commentary, translated from Georgian. 

Kordzaia possesses such dexterity with tone and structure that the book’s 22 tales feel like raunchy, visceral oral history cloaked in an array of fictional forms. The collection begins with the long, somewhat confusing title story about generations of women looking back at personal and national history, giving birth, grieving husbands who’ve disappeared during wartime, by turns angry or in awe of fate. The story’s breadth frames the range of women’s voices that follow. They live in mostly urban places, usually Tblisi, in vague yet hard circumstances, surviving bad relationships, raising children with little support, often at each other’s throats just before waxing poetic about life. In “A Foreign Man,” a painting triggers memories of past love in a series of anecdotes about bygone parties and art openings with friends drinking, flirting, sleeping on balconies—a paean to the sweet taste of regret. Many stories are monologues with fine twists, equal parts comedy and pathos. The dialogue rivals Beckett (“There, In the North”) for existential hilarity, and in cooler moments, the prose is reminiscent of Jean Rhys. In “It’s Raining,” an unnamed narrator’s experience is rendered timeless as her tales of love gone wrong lead to an act of violence and a coda from a mental hospital: “I am waiting for the time when I’ll become embittered.” Dependence on men tends to lead to despair, the violence of a passionate affair akin to war, with those who’ve survived questioning their methods and self-worths. As one supposedly happy woman is asked by a depressed friend in “An Insignificant Story of a Failed Suicide,” “If I live a long and happy life, does that mean I’ll be sent straight to heaven?” Not all gems but essential reading in a sterling translation from a country little heard from in English-speaking countries.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-56478-875-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller


Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet