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I HAVE THE ANSWER

A shrewd and probing volume of literary tales.

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Characters deal with personal tragedies and outsiders in this short story collection.

A man attempts to record the memories of his father before they are all lost to dementia, but as the tales begin to contradict one another, he can’t be sure what is fact and what is fiction. A woman whose husband recently left her suffers a sudden attack of agoraphobia only to be drawn into the strange fantasies of her peculiar neighbor. Some women acclimate to their lives as mothers over the course of 16 years. A stressed-out high school student wakes up one morning to discover that he’s grown a third arm: “He went to the bathroom and splashed water on his face, and that’s when he noticed the third arm. It was more like a hologram of a third arm. He could see the wall through it….As he stood looking at himself, it went straight up like a crossing guard’s arm. Then it waved.” In these 13 stories, Fordon explores the often surreal nature of suburban life, usually through the perplexing and aggravating relationships formed between family members, friends, and neighbors. The author’s prose is exact and knife-sharp, slicing to the soft center of her characters’ afflictions. In “How It Passed,” in which some friends narrate their experiences using the first-person plural, they gripe about their husbands thusly: “They are useless, we decide. Before long we are peeling them apart like string cheese with our ragged, misshapen nails.” Some tales sputter to rather easy conclusions, but each one finds a provocative tension between two or more people and burrows unflinchingly toward the heart of it. The results are stories that lay bare the messiness that lurks behind the facades people present to society. Standout pieces include “The Shorebirds and the Shaman,” in which a newly widowed woman is tricked by a friend into attending an alternative therapy seminar on Lake Erie, and “Why Did I Ever Think This Was a Good Idea,” which follows a mother wishing good riddance to her disrespectful son, about to leave for a gap year in China.

A shrewd and probing volume of literary tales.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8143-4752-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Wayne State Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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THE GOD OF THE WOODS

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Many years after her older brother, Bear, went missing, Barbara Van Laar vanishes from the same sleepaway camp he did, leading to dark, bitter truths about her wealthy family.

One morning in 1975 at Camp Emerson—an Adirondacks summer camp owned by her family—it's discovered that 13-year-old Barbara isn't in her bed. A problem case whose unhappily married parents disdain her goth appearance and "stormy" temperament, Barbara is secretly known by one bunkmate to have slipped out every night after bedtime. But no one has a clue where's she permanently disappeared to, firing speculation that she was taken by a local serial killer known as Slitter. As Jacob Sluiter, he was convicted of 11 murders in the 1960s and recently broke out of prison. He's the one, people say, who should have been prosecuted for Bear's abduction, not a gardener who was framed. Leave it to the young and unproven assistant investigator, Judy Luptack, to press forward in uncovering the truth, unswayed by her bullying father and male colleagues who question whether women are "cut out for this work." An unsavory group portrait of the Van Laars emerges in which the children's father cruelly abuses their submissive mother, who is so traumatized by the loss of Bear—and the possible role she played in it—that she has no love left for her daughter. Picking up on the themes of families in search of themselves she explored in Long Bright River (2020), Moore draws sympathy to characters who have been subjected to spousal, parental, psychological, and physical abuse. As rich in background detail and secondary mysteries as it is, this ever-expansive, intricate, emotionally engaging novel never seems overplotted. Every piece falls skillfully into place and every character, major and minor, leaves an imprint.

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780593418918

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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SANDWICH

A moving, hilarious reminder that parenthood, just like life, means constant change.

During an annual beach vacation, a mother confronts her past and learns to move forward.

Her family’s annual trip to Cape Cod is always the highlight of Rocky’s year—even more so now that her children are grown and she cherishes what little time she gets with them. Rocky is deep in the throes of menopause, picking fights with her loving husband and occasionally throwing off her clothes during a hot flash, much to the chagrin of her family. She’s also dealing with her parents, who are crammed into the same small summer house (with one toilet that only occasionally spews sewage everywhere) and who are aging at an alarmingly rapid rate. Rocky’s life is full of change, from her body to her identity—she frequently flashes back to the vacations of years past, when her children were tiny. Although she’s grateful for the family she has, she mourns what she’s lost. Newman (author of the equally wonderful We All Want Impossible Things, 2022) imbues Rocky’s internal struggles with importance and gravity, all while showcasing her very funny observations about life and parenting. She examines motherhood with a raw honesty that few others manage—she remembers the hard parts, the depths of despair, panic, and anxiety that can happen with young children, and she also recounts the joy in a way that never feels saccharine. She has a gift for exploring the real, messy contradictions in human emotions. As Rocky puts it, “This may be the only reason we were put on this earth. To say to each other, I know how you feel.”

A moving, hilarious reminder that parenthood, just like life, means constant change.

Pub Date: June 18, 2024

ISBN: 9780063345164

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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