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FARTHEST SOUTH & OTHER STORIES

Stories that test the boundaries of the fictional imagination.

Fairy tales and bedtime stories for those dark nights of the soul.

The two stories bookending Rutherford's second collection find a father named Soren drawing from his imagination to ease his young sons toward sleep. Both stories become monstrously supernatural, pitting young boys against sea creatures who threaten to devour their souls. In "The Diver," the final story, Soren fears that his sons realize his tale has “gone off the rails” as a giant squid who flooded the hometown of two abandoned brothers battles a disembodied diver. And, yes, if this were a fable, it has likely lost its point, its moral. But it’s indicative of Soren's mental state, as he fears that his life, his marriage, his family, and his home are all going off the rails. The elements of plot in these stories are often strange and scary—two foxes kidnap a human child to raise as their own, a mother succumbs to spiritual illness, a baby’s illness is nightmarishly investigated at an impersonal hospital—and the contexts throughout are young families, young marriages, young children, and the perception of overwhelming threat facing them all. The stories they weave, which incorporate elements of memories, dreams, fears, and fables, don’t necessarily provide comfort or even much in the way of resolution. They don’t have a lesson except that people tell stories to seek order amid chaos, hope amid impending doom, a reason to keep going. The farthest-flung adventure is the title story, which finds a Norse grandfather, a talking penguin, and 25 children on an ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. “Enchantment, wonder...uncharted, limitless white,” marvels the penguin. There are hints that the whole story is unfolding within the grandfather’s mind or that the narrator is imagining what his grandfather is experiencing as he lies comatose for two months in the hospital. Yet each of these stories has that same white canvas, uncharted, to be filled.

Stories that test the boundaries of the fictional imagination.

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64605-047-5

Page Count: 184

Publisher: A Strange Object

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

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Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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