A nondescript and intermittently tedious collection of 22 stories: the last two or three years' worth from the protean Oates, who seems here to be reworking with minimal variations materials she has used far too many times before. Preoccupying themes include, as always, the psychic undercurrents and emotional consequences of marital and domestic coexistence and conflict; the tensions between prosperous, complacent people and the underprivileged and envious outsiders who threaten their security: in a more general way, what one of her narrators calls "Perennial questions of philosophy. The mystery of good, evil. God, Devil." Oates's characters are placed in melodramatic or grotesque circumstances that cause them to reconsider who and what they are: Examples include "Life After High School," in which a "golden girl" for whom a classmate committed suicide later learns the truth about his infatuation with her; "The Goose-Girl," a strange story about a mother's initially reluctant involvement in her grown son's sexual confusions; and "The Missing Person," a smartly conceived tale—about a man's baffled empathy with the deeply troubled woman he loves—that's nevertheless clumsily overwritten. Sexual disturbance and threat predominate ("The Lost Child," "The Girl Who Was to Die"), as does domestic violence ("Christmas Night 1962"), and—in a reversion to Oates's early work—religious obsession ("Mark of Satan" is the weakest of several such subpar performances). Two stories alone seem worth preserving: "The Brothers," whose title "characters" are fantasized objective correlatives pushing a repressed music teacher toward acknowledgement of his true "erotic nature"; and "The Passion of Rydcie Mather," a skillfully developed tale of a middle-aged schoolbus driver's quarrel with God and decision to take control of her own fate. There's little else of interest here. Oates's reputation—to say nothing of her readers—would be better served by a carefully chosen Selected Stories showcasing her best work of the past 30-plus years, which isn't much more than a faint memory flickering throughout this deeply disappointing volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 1996

ISBN: 0-525-93972-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995

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


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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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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