Overall a strong and welcome collection, though readers on a limited anthology budget will find the annual edition of the...


Latest edition of the annual short-fiction prize volume, of more consistently high quality than several other volumes of recent vintage. 

The good news: The era of aping Ray Carver, 25 years on, seems to be over. There’s more good news: To judge by Furman’s choices, no one has figured out how to imitate David Foster Wallace, and the cutesy po-mo stuff seems to be ebbing, too. Still and all, we’re reminded of a question asked by an earnest poet not long ago: Does the American public care about anything less than poetry? Yes, and that’s the short story, the province of a tiny number of highbrow magazines and an ever-growing number of writers’ workshops, hardly read outside of those rarified circles. There’s more good news: several of Furman’s choices could turn the tide, given wider circulation. Wendell Berry’s “Nothing Living Lives Alone,” with its encouraging, manifesto-like title, is alone worth the price of admission; originally published in The Threepenny Review, it’s long and leisurely, like a winding country lane in the southern backwoods of which Berry is our greatest bard (“The town of Hargrave, charmed by its highway and motor connections to everywhere else, thought itself somewhat worldly”). The collection’s single most impressive tour de force falls just a few paragraphs shy of being a novella, that form beloved of Jim Harrison and a few other contemporary writers, and it comes from an outside-turned-insider, Beijing-born Yiyun Li, whose “Kindness” turns on a “forty-one-year-old woman living by myself, in the same one-bedroom flat where I have always lived, in a derelict building on the outskirts of Beijing that is threatened to be demolished by government-backed real estate developers.” The whole history of late 20th-century China lies in miniature in her closely written pages. Other standouts are Dagoberto Gilb’s opener, “Uncle Rock,” in which a young boy tries to comprehend the world and its summum bonum, namely baseball, and Miroslav Penkov’s Balkans morality tale “East of the West.” 

Overall a strong and welcome collection, though readers on a limited anthology budget will find the annual edition of the Pushcart Prize to offer more bang for the buck.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-94788-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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