Reading Collins work the same themes over again and again across mediums is a rare pleasure—as close as most of us will ever...


A multigenre collection of Collins’ (Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?, 2016) previously unpublished writing—fiction, letters, diary entries, plays, and screenplays—collected here and edited by her daughter, 30 years after the author’s death.

“The greatest marvel of Collins’s writing is that she is a magician in her use of interiority,” writes Danielle Evans (Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, 2010) in the collection’s introduction. “She can just slip underneath a moment of tension barely noticed by those in the world of the story and give us a character’s entire interior life, but she is also a master of the moments when…all pretense drops away and the unsayable is given words and said out loud.” It is, as the works here quickly demonstrate, a mastery that transcends form. The book opens with a trio of short stories, each of them centered around a woman as she is observed, followed by an excerpt from an unfinished novel, Lollie: A Suburban Tale, in which a bohemian husband and wife fight for narrative control of their marriage. It's a fight that ends prematurely; the immediate tragedy is the excerpt cuts off. The fragments from Collins’ actual life—first the diary entries and then the letters—are as arrestingly clear as the fiction, small and expansive at once. Dated Sept. 9: “They’re selling an old medieval house on Mason’s Road, where the rooms go on endlessly, like a labyrinth. We went there on Saturday and bought five red chairs for the kitchen." And reflecting on life on an April 11: “Instead of dealing with race I went in search of love…and what I found was a very hungry colored lady.” The bulk of the work here, though, are the scripts, one for her 1982 feature film, Losing Ground—a “comedy drama” about a philosophy professor who finds herself starring in a student film that hews unsettlingly close to her real life—and one for the stage play The Brothers, the story of a striving middle-class black family, told by its grieving women.

Reading Collins work the same themes over again and again across mediums is a rare pleasure—as close as most of us will ever come to her spectacular mind.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-280095-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.


An 18-year-old Polish girl falls in love, swoons over a first kiss, dreams of marriage—and, oh yes, we are in the middle of the Holocaust.

Jenoff (The Ambassador’s Daughter, 2013, etc.) weaves a tale of fevered teenage love in a time of horrors in the early 1940s, as the Nazis invade Poland and herd Jews into ghettos and concentration camps. A prologue set in 2013, narrated by a resident of the Westchester Senior Center, provides an intriguing setup. A woman and a policeman visit the resident and ask if she came from a small Polish village. Their purpose is unclear until they mention bones recently found there: “And we think you might know something about them.” The book proceeds in the third person, told from the points of view mostly of teenage Helena, who comes upon an injured young Jewish-American soldier, and sometimes of her twin, Ruth, who is not as adventurous as Helena but is very competitive with her. Their father is dead, their mother is dying in a hospital, and they are raising their three younger siblings amid danger and hardship. The romance between Helena and Sam, the soldier, is often conveyed in overheated language that doesn’t sit well with the era’s tragic events: “There had been an intensity to his embrace that said he was barely able to contain himself, that he also wanted more.” Jenoff, clearly on the side of tolerance, slips in a simplified historical framework for the uninformed. But she also feeds stereotypes, having Helena note that Sam has “a slight arch to his nose” and a dark complexion that “would make him suspect as a Jew immediately.” Clichés also pop up during the increasingly complex plot: “But even if they stood in place, the world around them would not.”

Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7783-1596-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

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A young New York woman figures there’s nothing wrong with existence that a fistful of prescriptions and months of napping wouldn’t fix.

Moshfegh’s prickly fourth book (Homesick for Another World, 2017, etc.) is narrated by an unnamed woman who’s decided to spend a year “hibernating.” She has a few conventional grief issues. (Her parents are both dead, and they’re much on her mind.) And if she’s not mentally ill, she’s certainly severely maladjusted socially. (She quits her job at an art gallery in obnoxious, scatological fashion.) But Moshfegh isn’t interested in grief or mental illness per se. Instead, she means to explore whether there are paths to living that don’t involve traditional (and wearying) habits of consumption, production, and relationships. To highlight that point, most of the people in the narrator's life are offbeat or provisional figures: Reva, her well-meaning but shallow former classmate; Trevor, a boyfriend who only pursues her when he’s on the rebound; and Dr. Tuttle, a wildly incompetent doctor who freely gives random pill samples and presses one drug, Infermiterol, that produces three-day blackouts. None of which is the stuff of comedy. But Moshfegh has a keen sense of everyday absurdities, a deadpan delivery, and such a well-honed sense of irony that the narrator’s predicament never feels tragic; this may be the finest existential novel not written by a French author. (Recovering from one blackout, the narrator thinks, “What had I done? Spent a spa day then gone out clubbing?...Had Reva convinced me to go ‘enjoy myself’ or something just as idiotic?”) Checking out of society the way the narrator does isn’t advisable, but there’s still a peculiar kind of uplift to the story in how it urges second-guessing the nature of our attachments while revealing how hard it is to break them.

A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52211-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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