A historically rich chronicling of private suffering across time, strata, and space.




In this collection of short stories, a varied cast of characters navigates the trauma of trying to reconcile past with present.

Some tales in Kasten’s (Better Days, 2013, etc.) collection address the ways in which lives in lands that are literally foreign to one another elude harmony. Professor Li Da-Ming weathers the overwhelming task of pursuing a competitive job opportunity in America while past horrors of the Chinese Cultural Revolution stir within him. An old woman finds herself flooded by memories of the Guatemalan civil war and the Mayan ruins of Tikal while babysitting in America. In one particularly breathtaking story, a boy growing up in World War II-ravaged Germany longs to be a soldier until, years later, he goes to war in Vietnam and is confronted by the “dazed, numb, animal stupidity” of doing so. Other tales are not immigrant stories, but they do address the ways in which past lives are rendered foreign lands by present disturbances. A Midwestern man and his family embark on the same trip he took to New Mexico as a bachelor and despairs when it fails to go as planned. An American veteran watches his cancer-ridden wife approach death and becomes hounded by memories of unprocessed loss. An old man joins a writing workshop and—unanticipatedly—revisits a heartbreaking childhood episode that he cannot bring himself to put on paper. As a whole, the collection swells with heart-rending tension. Kasten’s decision to allow these traumatic stories to find space in her prose—which is lovely and richly detailed—but not necessarily in the exterior lives of the formidably diverse characters is affecting. Further, the author’s expanse of historical knowledge is impressive. The opportunity to dip into an intimate day in the life of each pocket of history she writes about becomes an engrossing adventure for readers. That said, many of the tales’ endings feel either hastened, unfinished, or as if they are working too hard to make story titles relevant, an authorial maneuver that sells these otherwise powerful works short.

A historically rich chronicling of private suffering across time, strata, and space.

Pub Date: May 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-692-09162-3

Page Count: 213

Publisher: Islet Press

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2018

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Print the bumper sticker—"I'd Rather Be Living in an Elin Hilderbrand Novel."


Back to St. John with the Steele family, whose tragic loss and horrifying discovery have yielded an exciting new life.

In Winter in Paradise (2018), Hilderbrand introduced Midwestern magazine editor Irene Steele and her adult sons, Baker and Cash, then swept them off to the island of St. John after paterfamilias Russell Steele was killed in a helicopter crash with his secret mistress, leaving a preteen love child and a spectacular villa. While the first volume left a lot up in the air about Russell’s dubious business dealings and the manner of his death, this installment fills in many of the blanks. All three Steeles made new friends during their unexpected visit to the island in January, and now that’s resulted in job offers for Irene and Cash and the promise of new love for single dad Baker. Why not move to St. John and into the empty villa? Mother, sons, and grandson do just that. Both the dead mistress’s diary and a cadre of FBI agents begin to provide answers to the questions left dangling in Volume 1, and romantic prospects unfold for all three Steeles. Nevertheless, as a wise person once said, shit happens, combusting the family’s prospects and leading to a cliffhanger ending. On the way, there will be luscious island atmosphere, cute sundresses, frozen drinks, “slender baguette sandwiches with duck, arugula and fig jam,” lemongrass sugar cookies, and numerous bottles of both Krug and Dom Pérignon, the latter served by a wiseass who offers one of his trademark tasting notes: “This storied bubbly has notes of Canadian pennies, your dad’s Members Only jacket, and…‘We Are Never, Ever, Ever Getting Back Together.’ ” You'll be counting the days until you can return to the Virgin Islands with these characters in the concluding volume of the trilogy.

Print the bumper sticker—"I'd Rather Be Living in an Elin Hilderbrand Novel."

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-43557-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Honeyman’s endearing debut is part comic novel, part emotional thriller, and part love story.


A very funny novel about the survivor of a childhood trauma.

At 29, Eleanor Oliphant has built an utterly solitary life that almost works. During the week, she toils in an office—don’t inquire further; in almost eight years no one has—and from Friday to Monday she makes the time go by with pizza and booze. Enlivening this spare existence is a constant inner monologue that is cranky, hilarious, deadpan, and irresistible. Eleanor Oliphant has something to say about everything. Riding the train, she comments on the automated announcements: “I wondered at whom these pearls of wisdom were aimed; some passing extraterrestrial, perhaps, or a yak herder from Ulan Bator who had trekked across the steppes, sailed the North Sea, and found himself on the Glasgow-Edinburgh service with literally no prior experience of mechanized transport to call upon.” Eleanor herself might as well be from Ulan Bator—she’s never had a manicure or a haircut, worn high heels, had anyone visit her apartment, or even had a friend. After a mysterious event in her childhood that left half her face badly scarred, she was raised in foster care, spent her college years in an abusive relationship, and is now, as the title states, perfectly fine. Her extreme social awkwardness has made her the butt of nasty jokes among her colleagues, which don’t seem to bother her much, though one notices she is stockpiling painkillers and becoming increasingly obsessed with an unrealistic crush on a local musician. Eleanor’s life begins to change when Raymond, a goofy guy from the IT department, takes her for a potential friend, not a freak of nature. As if he were luring a feral animal from its hiding place with a bit of cheese, he gradually brings Eleanor out of her shell. Then it turns out that shell was serving a purpose.

Honeyman’s endearing debut is part comic novel, part emotional thriller, and part love story.

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2068-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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