CAN YOU GET THERE FROM HERE?

STORIES

A debut collection of slice-of-life stories about run-of-the- mill Texans—cruising men with women on the brain, and bosomy women with men on the brain. Originally published in various Southwestern periodicals, the tales take place in a seemingly endless series of bars, pick-up trucks, motels, and trailers. A few of the final stories rise above the norm with wise, lyrical passages, and the voices of Watt's older male narrators have an honest sound. In ``The Man Who Talked to Houses,'' a retired condo salesman contemplating death confides, ``I talk to the houses, yellow skeletons in the night, waiting for tomorrow. I shake my head over shortcuts taken, encourage the slabs to hold, the frames to be patient, remind them of years still to come.'' In ``The Way Things Happen,'' an emotionally burned-out man in his middle years listens to his companion talk about the farm she has inherited, a place she knew as a child, while he thinks, ``I want to...tell her how things end up in certain ways, how things aren't always the way they look, don't stay the way you remember.'' But other pieces don't work on as deep a level, particularly when Watt attempts a female narrator's point of view. His women too often seem to be stereotypes drawn from a male perspective, as when the narrator of ``Ducks'' contemplates her breasts: ``She likes them. Big enough to be full and need good support, but not so big as to be show-offy.'' Here, as elsewhere, the author doesn't extend his imagination far enough to credibly evoke differing states of mind. Ordinary people don't have to be boring—look at Walter Mitty- -but unfortunately Watt's characters are.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1994

ISBN: 0-87074-376-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Southern Methodist Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

THE WINTER GUEST

An 18-year-old Polish girl falls in love, swoons over a first kiss, dreams of marriage—and, oh yes, we are in the middle of the Holocaust.

Jenoff (The Ambassador’s Daughter, 2013, etc.) weaves a tale of fevered teenage love in a time of horrors in the early 1940s, as the Nazis invade Poland and herd Jews into ghettos and concentration camps. A prologue set in 2013, narrated by a resident of the Westchester Senior Center, provides an intriguing setup. A woman and a policeman visit the resident and ask if she came from a small Polish village. Their purpose is unclear until they mention bones recently found there: “And we think you might know something about them.” The book proceeds in the third person, told from the points of view mostly of teenage Helena, who comes upon an injured young Jewish-American soldier, and sometimes of her twin, Ruth, who is not as adventurous as Helena but is very competitive with her. Their father is dead, their mother is dying in a hospital, and they are raising their three younger siblings amid danger and hardship. The romance between Helena and Sam, the soldier, is often conveyed in overheated language that doesn’t sit well with the era’s tragic events: “There had been an intensity to his embrace that said he was barely able to contain himself, that he also wanted more.” Jenoff, clearly on the side of tolerance, slips in a simplified historical framework for the uninformed. But she also feeds stereotypes, having Helena note that Sam has “a slight arch to his nose” and a dark complexion that “would make him suspect as a Jew immediately.” Clichés also pop up during the increasingly complex plot: “But even if they stood in place, the world around them would not.”

Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7783-1596-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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