Carefully worked tales that are as good as many and better than most.

ANTARCTICA

A first collection from Irish-born Keegan spans the Atlantic, touching down in rural Ireland and the southern US—with results often familiar or stretched-for, yet deftly done and alluringly readable.

In the title story, a happily married woman wants to find out what it’s like to have sex with someone else—and does so indeed, in a psychological clunker that crosses Hitchcock with O. Henry while remaining ever-intriguing to the eye. A near-wizardry of language and detail, too, closes the volume, with “The Ginger Rogers Sermon,” when a pubescent girl in Ireland, sexually curious, brings about the suicide of a hulking lumberman in a tone-perfect but morally inert story. In between are longer and shorter, greater and lesser tales. Among the better are “Men and Women,” about a suffering Irish farmwife who at last rebels against a cruelly domineering husband; the southern-set “Ride If You Dare,” about a couple who shyly meet after running personals ads; and “Stay Close to the Water’s Edge,” about a Harvard student who despises—and is despised by—his millionaire stepfather. Psychologically more thin or commonplace are “Storms,” told by an Irish daughter whose mother went mad; “Where the Water’s Deepest,” a snippet about an au pair afraid of “losing” her charge; or “The Singing Cashier”—based on fact, we’re rather pointlessly told—about a couple who, unbeknownst to their neighbors, commit “hideous acts on teenage girls.” Keegan’s best include the more maturely conceived “Passport Soup,” about a man devoured by guilt and grief after his daughter goes missing while in his care; “Quare Name for a Boy,” in which a young woman, pregnant by a single-fling boyfriend whom she no longer has an interest in, determines that she’ll go on into motherhood without him; and the nicely sustained “Sisters”—one dutiful and plain, the other lovely and self-indulgent—who come to a symbolically perfect end.

Carefully worked tales that are as good as many and better than most.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-87113-779-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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BEYOND THE GREAT SNOW MOUNTAINS

Superb stylist L’Amour returns (End of the Drive, 1997, etc.), albeit posthumously, with ten stories never seen before in book form—and narrated in his usual hard-edged, close-cropped sentences, jutting up from under fierce blue skies. This is the first of four collections of L’Amour material expected from Bantam, edited by his daughter Angelique, featuring an eclectic mix of early historicals and adventure stories set in China, on the high seas, and in the boxing ring, all drawing from the author’s exploits as a carnival barker and from his mysterious and sundry travels. During this period, L’Amour was trying to break away from being a writer only of westerns. Also included is something of an update on Angelique’s progress with her father’s biography: i.e., a stunningly varied list of her father’s acquaintances from around the world whom she’d like to contact for her research. Meanwhile, in the title story here, a missionary’s daughter who crashes in northern Asia during the early years of the Sino-Japanese War is taken captive by a nomadic leader and kept as his wife for 15 years, until his death. When a plane lands, she must choose between taking her teenaged son back to civilization or leaving him alone with the nomads. In “By the Waters of San Tadeo,” set on the southern coast of Chile, Julie Marrat, whose father has just perished, is trapped in San Esteban, a gold field surrounded by impassable mountains, with only one inlet available for anyone’s escape. “Meeting at Falmouth,” a historical, takes place in January 1794 during a dreadful Atlantic storm: “Volleys of rain rattled along the cobblestones like a scattering of broken teeth.” In this a notorious American, unnamed until the last paragraph, helps Talleyrand flee to America. A master storyteller only whets the appetite for his next three volumes.

Pub Date: May 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-10963-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS

Told through the points of view of the four Garcia sisters- Carla, Sandi, Yolanda and Sofia-this perceptive first novel by poet Alvarez tells of a wealthy family exiled from the Dominican Republic after a failed coup, and how the daughters come of age, weathering the cultural and class transitions from privileged Dominicans to New York Hispanic immigrants. Brought up under strict social mores, the move to the States provides the girls a welcome escape from the pampered, overbearingly protective society in which they were raised, although subjecting them to other types of discrimination. Each rises to the challenge in her own way, as do their parents, Mami (Laura) and Papi (Carlos). The novel unfolds back through time, a complete picture accruing gradually as a series of stories recounts various incidents, beginning with ``Antojos'' (roughly translated ``cravings''), about Yolanda's return to the island after an absence of five years. Against the advice of her relatives, who fear for the safety of a young woman traveling the countryside alone, Yolanda heads out in a borrowed car in pursuit of some guavas and returns with a renewed understanding of stringent class differences. ``The Kiss,'' one of Sofia's stories, tells how she, married against her father's wishes, tries to keep family ties open by visiting yearly on her father's birthday with her young son. And in ``Trespass,'' Carla finds herself the victim of ignorance and prejudice a year after the Garcias have arrived in America, culminating with a pervert trying to lure her into his car. In perhaps one of the most deft and magical stories, ``Still Lives,'' young Sandi has an extraordinary first art lesson and becomes the inspiration for a statue of the Virgin: ``Dona Charito took the lot of us native children in hand Saturday mornings nine to twelve to put Art into us like Jesus into the heathen.'' The tradition and safety of the Old World are just part of the tradeoff that comes with the freedom and choice in the New. Alvarez manages to bring to attention many of the issues-serious and light-that immigrant families face, portraying them with sensitivity and, at times, an enjoyable, mischievous sense.

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-945575-57-2

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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