Not every piece in this thick volume is noteworthy, but those that are shine, and the cumulative effect is powerful. A...

EYES GLOWING AT THE EDGE OF THE WOODS

FICTION AND POETRY FROM WEST VIRGINIA

Sixty-three contemporary writers from West Virginia provide a sense of place through its people.

Editors Long (Out of Peel Tree, 2014) and Van Gundy (A Life Above Water, 2007) bring together fiction and poetry to show a region as diverse as the people who make it up. The characters in these pages struggle to understand and to be understood. There is the Hindu grandfather in Rahul Mehta’s “Quarantine.” He is a stubborn man who insists on tradition and frustrates his grandson, but—like his grandson—he does not feel like home is where he belongs. In Jonathan Corcoran’s “Through the Still Hours,” a now-loveless gay couple celebrates their fourth anniversary with a crowd of straight friends. It's a sad, lonely affair for the protagonist. “This means a lot to them,” his partner stresses. “We’re the only gay couple they know.” Voices of children and the elderly feature prominently. The child of Scott McClanahan’s “Picking Blackberries” is rendered in beautiful, realistic detail, from the hat he longs for and then resents to the Velcro tennis shoes that he believes give him special speed. An excerpt from Jayne Anne Phillips' novel Lark and Termite is particularly memorable. A young girl takes care of her nonverbal half brother, a boy nicknamed Termite. It is clear she will be his caretaker all her life. She can see him as others do, but she knows him much more deeply. “I think he’s in himself like a termite’s in a wall,” she says. Similarly, in Jessie van Eerden’s “Edna,” the pain of the eponymous elderly protagonist is only one part of her dynamic character. Nostalgia is a frequent theme in many of the poems and stories, including those of Ron Houchin, Cheryl Denise, and Kent Shaw. The natural world plays a role too, as in Matthew Neill Null’s “Natural Resources,” which traces the patterns of the bear population and the human causes for it. Even characters with jobs more commonly associated with Appalachia are seen with a depth that makes them new. Maiden Estep, the miner in Sheryl Monks’ “Robbing Pillars,” suffers a loss that is almost magical in its abruptness.

Not every piece in this thick volume is noteworthy, but those that are shine, and the cumulative effect is powerful. A collage of a region that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943665-54-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Vandalia Press/West Virginia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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