Gripping, cerebral, intriguing, enigmatic—like a puzzle you enjoy working on but may never solve.

LET THE OLD DREAMS DIE

The Swedish author offers sequel stories to Handling the Undead (2010) and Let the Right One In (aka Let Me In, 2007; adapted for film in Sweden and in the U.S.).

“Final Processing” adds an intense, moving coda to Handling the Undead; the psychically gifted Flora, aided by musician/hauler Kalle, seeks final peace for the zombies imprisoned in a government facility. The title story is a quiet little tale that may confuse people who haven’t read Let the Right One In and may not entirely satisfy readers hoping to learn more about Oskar and his vampire friend Eli. But the collection provides other treasures, particularly the perversely sweet “The Border,” in which an ugly, lonely customs agent who can literally smell deceit finally discovers where she fits, and “Equinox,” concerning a compulsively nosy crossword writer with low self-esteem who makes a gruesomely attractive discovery in a deserted house. The spare, poetic quality of Lindqvist’s translated prose and the inexplicable dream logic that drives so many of his stories recall the work of Jonathan Carroll or Ray Bradbury in his less baroque moments. Even at its darkest, the collection affirms the importance of love: Its presence and its lack cause people to do strange things, terrible things, heroic things, with horrible and/or exultantly beautiful consequences.

Gripping, cerebral, intriguing, enigmatic—like a puzzle you enjoy working on but may never solve.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-62053-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013

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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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HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS

Told through the points of view of the four Garcia sisters- Carla, Sandi, Yolanda and Sofia-this perceptive first novel by poet Alvarez tells of a wealthy family exiled from the Dominican Republic after a failed coup, and how the daughters come of age, weathering the cultural and class transitions from privileged Dominicans to New York Hispanic immigrants. Brought up under strict social mores, the move to the States provides the girls a welcome escape from the pampered, overbearingly protective society in which they were raised, although subjecting them to other types of discrimination. Each rises to the challenge in her own way, as do their parents, Mami (Laura) and Papi (Carlos). The novel unfolds back through time, a complete picture accruing gradually as a series of stories recounts various incidents, beginning with ``Antojos'' (roughly translated ``cravings''), about Yolanda's return to the island after an absence of five years. Against the advice of her relatives, who fear for the safety of a young woman traveling the countryside alone, Yolanda heads out in a borrowed car in pursuit of some guavas and returns with a renewed understanding of stringent class differences. ``The Kiss,'' one of Sofia's stories, tells how she, married against her father's wishes, tries to keep family ties open by visiting yearly on her father's birthday with her young son. And in ``Trespass,'' Carla finds herself the victim of ignorance and prejudice a year after the Garcias have arrived in America, culminating with a pervert trying to lure her into his car. In perhaps one of the most deft and magical stories, ``Still Lives,'' young Sandi has an extraordinary first art lesson and becomes the inspiration for a statue of the Virgin: ``Dona Charito took the lot of us native children in hand Saturday mornings nine to twelve to put Art into us like Jesus into the heathen.'' The tradition and safety of the Old World are just part of the tradeoff that comes with the freedom and choice in the New. Alvarez manages to bring to attention many of the issues-serious and light-that immigrant families face, portraying them with sensitivity and, at times, an enjoyable, mischievous sense.

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-945575-57-2

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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