Flawlessly interweaving personal and social tragedy with the imagery of interior and exterior spaces. Jamaica-born Hemans’s...

RIVER WOMAN

A remarkably assured and insightful debut offers a finely tuned, sympathetic portrait of a teenaged mother whose toddler drowns accidentally in the river where she’s washing clothes.

The drowning of young Timothy is over in a flash, or so it seems to Kelithe when his body is brought to her by the other women of the river. Then the rumors start that Kelithe watched her son as he went under, seeing it as the way to escape from rural, impoverished Standfast to New York, where her mother went when Kelithe was five, promising “soon-soon” to send for her. By the time Sonya, who hasn’t been back to Standfast for 15 years, arrives for the funeral, the whole village has turned against her daughter, enraged by the fact that the police didn’t even investigate the accident. Though Sonya has been sending Kelithe food and clothes over the years, she finds her daughter a stranger and doesn’t know who to believe. Kelithe, hopeful at first that Sonya will make good on the recently renewed promise to take her back to America, waits in silence and in vain for her mother to ask for her side of the story and to comfort her numbing grief. Meanwhile, Sonya’s own mother, who has raised Kelithe in Standfast and knows her innocent heart, watches bitterly as Sonya accepts the gossip and turns from them. Emboldened villagers intensify their campaign for justice: they build smoky roadblocks, burn the only bridge they have across the river, and finally get the attention they crave—but at a terrible price. By the time little Timothy is finally buried, a great deal more than one small life is interred.

Flawlessly interweaving personal and social tragedy with the imagery of interior and exterior spaces. Jamaica-born Hemans’s rare and distinctive debut is not only a tale for our time, but one for all time.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7434-1039-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Washington Square/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

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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THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY

THE FINCA VIGIA EDITION

What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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