Me Before You fans searching for the same emotional intensity should probably look elsewhere, but these stories make for a...

PARIS FOR ONE AND OTHER STORIES

Moyes (After You, 2015, etc.) explores the lives of unsatisfied women in this collection of short stories and a novella.

In the title novella, a young woman named Nell plans a romantic weekend trip to Paris only to find out that her jerk of a boyfriend made a last-minute decision not to accompany her. Although Nell typically plays it safe, she eventually decides to enjoy her time in Paris alone. Her newfound sense of adventure allows her to enjoy the romance and excitement of the city (and a new man). Most of the short stories here follow a similar format: a woman who is unsatisfied with her relationship stumbles into a new situation or makes an out-of-character decision. One woman runs into an old lover at a party, one wears another woman’s shoes and experiences surprising results, and another ends up involved in a bank robbery. Women try out new identities, styles, and relationships and then either make triumphant changes or realize how wonderful their lives really were in the first place. This leads to a series of stories that can feel a bit homogenous, but Moyes’ engaging writing keeps things enjoyable. While there's nothing earth-shattering in this collection, it’s a pleasant and charming read.

Me Before You fans searching for the same emotional intensity should probably look elsewhere, but these stories make for a diverting treat while waiting for Moyes to write her next tear-jerker.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 9780735221079

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

A PERMANENT MEMBER OF THE FAMILY

One of America’s great novelists (Lost Memory of Skin, 2011, etc.) also writes excellent stories, as his sixth collection reminds readers.

Don’t expect atmospheric mood poems or avant-garde stylistic games in these dozen tales. Banks is a traditionalist, interested in narrative and character development; his simple, flexible prose doesn’t call attention to itself as it serves those aims. The intricate, not necessarily permanent bonds of family are a central concern. The bleak, stoic “Former Marine” depicts an aging father driven to extremes because he’s too proud to admit to his adult sons that he can no longer take care of himself. In the heartbreaking title story, the death of a beloved dog signals the final rupture in a family already rent by divorce. Fraught marriages in all their variety are unsparingly scrutinized in “Christmas Party,” Big Dog” and “The Outer Banks." But as the collection moves along, interactions with strangers begin to occupy center stage. The protagonist of “The Invisible Parrot” transcends the anxieties of his hard-pressed life through an impromptu act of generosity to a junkie. A man waiting in an airport bar is the uneasy recipient of confidences about “Searching for Veronica” from a woman whose truthfulness and motives he begins to suspect, until he flees since “the only safe response is to quarantine yourself.” Lurking menace that erupts into violence features in many Banks novels, and here, it provides jarring climaxes to two otherwise solid stories, “Blue” and “The Green Door.” Yet Banks quietly conveys compassion for even the darkest of his characters. Many of them (like their author) are older, at a point in life where options narrow and the future is uncomfortably close at hand—which is why widowed Isabel’s fearless shucking of her confining past is so exhilarating in “SnowBirds,” albeit counterbalanced by her friend Jane’s bleak acceptance of her own limited prospects.

Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-185765-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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