A compelling collection that captures the mystery and menace beneath love and family life.

LIFE AND OTHER SHORTCOMINGS

Adjmi’s debut collection of 12 linked short stories explores women’s lives from varying perspectives.

Characters recur in these tales, but each stands on its own. They take place in a range of eras from the 1970s to the present and take readers to various cities in the United States and Spain. All are succinct, slice-of-life stories, and at least half feature characters from the three couples introduced in the opening story, “Dinner Conversation,” which is set in New York City in 1998. The six diners are close friends who call themselves “The Sixers,” but despite their long history, they each have insecurities that will ultimately destroy their relationships. All the women in these stories navigate treacherous journeys through landscapes rife with misogyny and physical and psychological abuse. Many of the women have internalized their fears of growing older, as expressed by Kelly, the narrator of “The Drowning Girl”: “I WAS ONCE YOUNG AND PRETTY. THIS, WHO YOU SEE NOW, IS NOT ME.” Adjmi conjures convincing portraits of a variety of female characters with economical language and biting dialogue. Their relationships with men are not enviable, as most of the male characters are angry, belittling, and erratic. With piercing clarity, the author often offers an unexpected payoff in the final sentence. In “The Devil Makes Three,” for instance, Iris, an Orthodox Jew, prepares for a mikvah, a monthly ritual bath for women, before resuming marital relations. The engaging description of this arcane process is coupled with an account of Iris’ chaste online dalliance with a non-Jewish man. Readers can admire her adherence to the faith, see how restricted her life is, and end up with a sense of the sensual joy that she shares with her husband. However, not every story lands as well; some are a tad too cryptic. In the fablelike “Happily Ever After,” man loves car, woman loves man, woman destroys car, and man’s personality disintegrates. Adjmi’s take on reality is more satisfying.

A compelling collection that captures the mystery and menace beneath love and family life.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63152-713-5

Page Count: 170

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

THE RAVAGED

This debut novel from Walking Dead actor Reedus follows three thematically connected yet narratively unrelated people as they journey to find themselves.

Hunter, a heavily tatted Iraq War vet and self-proclaimed gearhead, attacks his boss at the bike shop after catching him kicking a dog. “Hunter was old school,” the narrator says, rough-hewn but with strong moral fiber and a heart of gold. After learning his father died in a “mysterious house fire” in California, Hunter hops on his Buell S1 motorcycle alongside his buddies Nugget and Itch for a cross-country haul to execute the will. Meanwhile, a wealthy 65-year-old executive named Jack is mugged while traveling aimlessly through South America, neither the first nor the last of his hardships. Jack abandoned his cushy, bloodless office lifestyle after his dying mother told him to “run and never look back,” words he continuously labors to unpack. Finally, Anne, an abused teenage girl in Tennessee, steals her father’s savings and .38 revolver and runs away from home, clobbering her brother upside the head with a cast-iron skillet when he tries to stop her. She connects with her friend Trot, and they join a community of train-hoppers. Co-written by Bill, the story reads like a pastiche of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the latter of which is name-dropped as “great” by multiple characters. Though occasionally hitting some beautiful imagery of the American heartland, Reedus falls victim to implausible dialogue—“Fabiola, you are reading me like a stock report,” Jack says—and overcooked language: “flesh the color of a high-dollar medium-roast coffee bean.” Frequently wordy summaries do little to develop the thinly sketched characters; we know nearly as much about them on Page 25 as on Page 250.

A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-09-416680-3

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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