A captivating assemblage of philosophical and meditative tales.



From the Lynch's Corner Series series , Vol. 16

A collection of short stories that revolve around the history of a small town in Kentucky. 

Summers’ (Ruadan, 2017, etc.) new collection of 20 tales is bound by a common locale—Lynch’s Corner, Kentucky—and covers its history from 1893 to 1986. The stories all share an artfully crafted atmosphere of austerity as they unblinkingly confront the harsh realities of life. In the first story, “Fair Game,” two close friends, Carson York and Thomas Mason, travel from Lynch’s Corner to Chicago to see the World’s Fair in 1893. After Thomas suddenly vanishes, Carson discovers that he’s not only dead—he’s also been sold to a hospital by a “resurrector,” a collector of corpses. Although it’s likely that Thomas was murdered, the hospital administrator recommends that Carson go home with a story that his friend died of a “sudden illness.” In “Rite of Fire,” set in 1898, Lynch’s Corner deputy sheriff John Reichmuth learns that a local woman, Bernice Caraway, was burned to death for witchcraft—because she simply used herbal remedies to heal the sick. However, it’s revealed that the men who killed her had other motives as well, and they all suffer mysterious accidents in the wake of her death. In these tales, Summers often provides profound meditations on the meaning of history and the lure of the past. For example, in “Blazing Noon,” set in 1904, Donnie greets information about his ancestors with a compelling mix of curiosity and skepticism: “I believe we chase the shadows of youth across the years, throughout our adult lives. And we never quite grasp that the joys belonged to someone else. We all change.” Throughout this collection, the author’s prose is self-assured and free of needless contrivance, and he shows considerable, nuanced skill at plot and character development. Overall, this is an excellent example of regional literature that offers readers a sense of universality, mined from concrete elements of everyday life.

A captivating assemblage of philosophical and meditative tales.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72421-410-2

Page Count: 222

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2018

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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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Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.


One of America’s great novelists (Lost Memory of Skin, 2011, etc.) also writes excellent stories, as his sixth collection reminds readers.

Don’t expect atmospheric mood poems or avant-garde stylistic games in these dozen tales. Banks is a traditionalist, interested in narrative and character development; his simple, flexible prose doesn’t call attention to itself as it serves those aims. The intricate, not necessarily permanent bonds of family are a central concern. The bleak, stoic “Former Marine” depicts an aging father driven to extremes because he’s too proud to admit to his adult sons that he can no longer take care of himself. In the heartbreaking title story, the death of a beloved dog signals the final rupture in a family already rent by divorce. Fraught marriages in all their variety are unsparingly scrutinized in “Christmas Party,” Big Dog” and “The Outer Banks." But as the collection moves along, interactions with strangers begin to occupy center stage. The protagonist of “The Invisible Parrot” transcends the anxieties of his hard-pressed life through an impromptu act of generosity to a junkie. A man waiting in an airport bar is the uneasy recipient of confidences about “Searching for Veronica” from a woman whose truthfulness and motives he begins to suspect, until he flees since “the only safe response is to quarantine yourself.” Lurking menace that erupts into violence features in many Banks novels, and here, it provides jarring climaxes to two otherwise solid stories, “Blue” and “The Green Door.” Yet Banks quietly conveys compassion for even the darkest of his characters. Many of them (like their author) are older, at a point in life where options narrow and the future is uncomfortably close at hand—which is why widowed Isabel’s fearless shucking of her confining past is so exhilarating in “SnowBirds,” albeit counterbalanced by her friend Jane’s bleak acceptance of her own limited prospects.

Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-185765-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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