Solid storytelling and a sequential short-story format uplift the potentially ponderous, gay-specialty plotline about a...

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SO THEY SAY

COLLECTED STORIES

Linked short stories follow a half-century in the life of a Florida-born gay man and his search for emotional happiness and stability on two coasts and two continents.

Urquhart presents a cycle of interlinked short stories (one late entry brushes novella length), some previously published in literary journals, to form one leapfrogging life-arc saga—approximately 50 years for protagonist Rex Fordham. First introduced in the late-1950s as a pudgy, introspective boy born into a Baptist-repressive community in central Florida, the young Rex learns that some aspects of the adult world are of a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” nature, and this includes his own growing attraction to males, which increases when he exercises his flab into muscle and catches the interest of other homosexual men in college-level wrestling and adventure-sports spheres. Despite these furtive side encounters, Rex tries to fit in with the American mainstream, moving to Colorado, becoming an architectural engineer and marrying up in society to a responsible woman (albeit one in deep denial about Rex’s proclivities—and her own father’s, for that matter). They have twin boys, but a tragedy finally ends the marriage and compels Rex to come out of the closet. He continues his quest for lasting love and full acceptance, moving to San Francisco and even to France, and in middle age learns to value the people around him, the partners he has lost and the possibilities that still lay ahead. The fragmentary nature of the narrative succeeds in giving it the forward motion it might have lacked as traditionally structured, brick-thick novel. Urquhart wisely restricts himself to his character’s interior lives and desires rather than attempt to dole out history lessons in 20th-century LGBT life (AIDS is barely mentioned, Stonewall is AWOL and even religious intolerance and homophobia aren’t made much of an issue), though he does frequently invoke the dynamic of closeted husbands/deceived wives. Some segments shift the POV from Rex to supporting characters, with mixed results (a porn-addicted father-in-law rants like a cackling villain of the pulps), but Urquhart’s prose is usually on the mark and richly resonant, even for non-gay readers. The author, a former writing instructor, appends the collection with a “Reader's Guide” selection of questions for discussion.

Solid storytelling and a sequential short-story format uplift the potentially ponderous, gay-specialty plotline about a restless quest for love.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-1466475199

Page Count: 674

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2012

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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