A welcome collection from a writer worth hearing more from—so translators, get busy.


Quietly subversive works of imagination from a Ukraine-born Russian/Israeli writer who describes herself as an essayist.

In Putin’s Russia, is there such a thing as a Valley girl? To judge by some of the aperçus in this collection by pop-culture phenom Goralik, we might conclude that indeed there is: "How old is he? Probably pushing fifty. Gray hair, I always loved that type. You know, he did ballet as a kid, then worked for the KGB, so, like, basically a real inspired dude.” Well into her 40s, though, Goralik mostly writes with a mature distance. One story, in its entirety, is a flash-fiction masterpiece: "The wife comes home and the cat smells like someone else’s perfume.” It’s a few words more than Hemingway spent on baby shoes, but it’s a compressed gem all the same. Often as gritty as a Brassaï photograph, Goralik’s sketches, some originally published on the Web, center on ordinary scenes: American tourists gawk before the Kremlin, an Easter card curdles in a puddle of mud, a battered woman puts on makeup in a restaurant, unselfconscious and apparently unshaken. At times Goralik drifts into dreams—as with one fellow who, in the nightmare of missing a long-ago exam, discovers that he can no longer remember the Russian of the Soviet era—but seldom indulges in surrealism; her work is notable for its matter-of-factness, no matter how absurd the scenario. This anthology gathers work from across several genres, from those short works to some longer pieces such as the Bulgakov-worthy story “Agatha Goes Home” and the novella Valerii, as well as poems, plays, and even a sequence of cartoons that are somewhat reminiscent of Chris Ware’s, if much darker: in one, a bunny lists off all the vices he doesn’t indulge in, from smoking to drinking and gambling, “because all that might distract me from important suicidal thoughts.”

A welcome collection from a writer worth hearing more from—so translators, get busy.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-231-18350-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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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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