An uneven but entertaining collection from a strong new voice.

Stories Nobody Tells

A varied assortment of characters populate the stories in Hendrickson’s debut collection.

These 13 tales run the gamut from sci-fi and crime fiction to more mainstream musings about relationships and growing up, and each has a unique narrative voice. Writing in a naturalistic style, Hendrickson imitates the way real people speak, down to stammers and accents. When characters say things such as, “Whattayagonnado,” or “Ohhww, lookit chew,” their voices come through loud and clear. These are less literary tales than they are yarns that one might overhear in a bar; indeed, one of them, “The B-Plus Factor,” seems like exactly that. The strongest stories depict life in small-town Middle America, usually its underbelly. “There are some places here in the rural Midwest that don’t really exist,” opens the final story, “The Sovereign,” one of the most memorable in the collection. These darkly funny tales are about people such as bartenders, survivalists, and drug dealers who live in trailers and farms in the middle of nowhere—people whom the system conspires against. The opening story, “It’s Legal, There,” sets the stage, illustrating the contortions of the legal system as a woman is tried for the murder of her young son. “Three Pines” is an extended joke about three drunk teens who get revenge of a sort on the unlikable cop in their tiny Michigan town. Some stories are so slight as to be little more than vignettes, such as “I Know You Do,” about a lawyer moonlighting at an airport as a luggage handler. Other tales seem to be auditioning as the first chapter of a novel. “It’s Easy As,” a sci-fi story tale set in a highly stratified future society, introduces a lawyer and his client, who is accused of “thought-crime,” but will leave readers wanting more. Even though the selected stories wander through many genres and themes, Hendrickson displays a confidence that promises more exciting things to come.

An uneven but entertaining collection from a strong new voice.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-5150-3823-8

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2015

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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.


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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