Women and girls often overlooked by history are given compelling voices in this collection.

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BRIDES IN THE SKY

In unsentimental but intimate detail, a collection of stories peels back stereotypes about the lives of women in the past. From the Old West to the 1960s, female lives that might be deemed ordinary are revealed as rich and complex.

Holladay (The Deer in the Mirror, 2013, etc.) focuses in these eight stories and one novella on girls and women trying to find their places in a world that often treats them as insignificant. A few of the stories have contemporary settings, but most take place decades or more than a century in the past. In spare but evocative prose, Holladay skillfully and subtly re-creates those earlier times while making clear their parallels to the present. The novella, A Thousand Stings, is the story of 8-year-old Shirley, striving to make sense of the impact of the 1967 Summer of Love on her small town, from a hippie minister who upends the family church to the blossoming of her older sister. In "Operator," set in 1954, a young woman working as a telephone operator and hoping to marry up tells us the surprising tale of what happens when she takes it upon herself to respond to an emergency call about a violent incident. Some of the best of these stories are set in the American West. In the title story, in 1854, young sisters Kate and Olivia sell their parents' Virginia farm after marrying a pair of brothers who persuade them to join a wagon train headed for Oregon—a harrowing journey with unexpected consequences. "Comanche Queen" is based on the true story of Cynthia Parker, who was captured by Comanches as a child, found 24 years later in 1860, and returned (with one of her children) to her white family. Parker spent the rest of her life trying to get back to the Comanches; Holladay tells her heartbreaking story from the point of view of her well-intentioned but benighted white relatives. "Interview with Etta Place, Sweetheart of the Sundance Kid" is just that, a fictional talk with the mysterious woman who was the companion of outlaw Harry Longabaugh. Holladay paints her at age 92, salty and humorous, recounting a startlingly different version of the deaths of Longabaugh and Robert Parker, aka Butch Cassidy. In a line that speaks for all the women in these stories, Place beseeches her interviewer, "Write it with me in the middle, not off to the side."

Women and girls often overlooked by history are given compelling voices in this collection.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8040-1204-1

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Swallow Press/Ohio Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

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

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EXHALATION

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

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