Inspired personal journeys that, even when traversing other worlds, stay grounded in the one readers know.

A Dream of India

& OTHER MYSTIC STORIES OF RADIANCE AND DARKNESS

In this debut collection of short stories, characters experience spiritual awakenings through dreams and reminiscences.

An epiphany, it seems, can come about by simply remembering. Such is the case for the unnamed narrator of “Gravel and Fern,” who perceives his wife in an entirely different light only after she’s dead. Memory is often a catalyst in these tales, ultimately sparking Vietnamese soldier Steele’s religious turn in “Gold Leaf” or prefacing the shocking event that befalls Uccello, a baker recalling someone he’s lost, in “Dough.” Characters find insight in dreams as well, dream imagery that Frode generally augments with something more tangible. Nathan of “In the Darkness of the Dark Night,” for example, has a vision of falling stars that he later sees as helicopters—like an invading Army. Metaphors are unsubtle but never clumsily so, such as the serene “Levees,” in which a monk, Brother Paul, watching the flooding of orchards he tends, is flooded with recollections of lost loved ones. In the same vein, real-world elements that usually accompany the stories’ spirituality are both suitable and engrossing; in “Above the Tree Line,” an overnight backpacking trip up a mountain is just as therapeutic for the doctor as it is for the patient. There is, however, occasional repetition: “Spice,” in which Herbert’s beloved, memory-triggering spices are opposed by his hateful stepfather, Frank, is immediately followed by “Iridescence,” with Carl seriously contemplating killing his own abusive stepfather, Chet. Frode recurrently lingers on descriptive passages, as many characters lament the past, including Brother Clayton, who in “Clay Bodies” focuses on a pottery wheel, its precision reminding him of his days as a mathematics professor. The writing’s steeped in lyricism, regardless of content: sights at the farmers’ market in “Slow” entail “thin Botox women carrying Chihuahua dogs in their bared skeletal arms, an ultimate fighter type hazarding a leashed but prohibited pit bull through the crowd,” and so on. The book closes with “The Door Maker,” in which the dream-motivated title character tries to build a door to various dimensions. It’s a befitting conclusion, blurring the line between reality and mysticism.

Inspired personal journeys that, even when traversing other worlds, stay grounded in the one readers know.

Pub Date: July 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-312-54537-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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