Not every piece in this thick volume is noteworthy, but those that are shine, and the cumulative effect is powerful. A...
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
Page Count: 336
Publisher: Vandalia Press/West Virginia Univ.
Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
National Book Award Finalist
Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.
Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Pub Date: March 10, 2015
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by Harper Lee ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 11, 1960
A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.
Pub Date: July 11, 1960
Page Count: 323
Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960
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