It’s the tense atmospheres that Aronson creates, and her empathy for her characters, that make this a promising debut.

A HISTORY OF THE PRESENT ILLNESS

First-time author Aronson calls on her experience as a professor of medicine for this collection of short stories, which take place in and around a San Francisco hospital. But the stories are less concerned with medical details than with the inner lives of the characters and the psychological toll that health issues take on caregivers, patients and their families.

The best story here, “Becoming a Doctor,” is about an internship; its brief episodes give glimpses of the life-changing experiences a young doctor might encounter, from impulsive love affairs to the first sighting of medical horrors. Call it a less cute, more truthful version of Grey’s Anatomy. In “Giving Good Death,” a doctor serves prison time for malpractice, and Aronson focuses on his failed connection with the psychiatrist handling his case. “Vital Signs Stable” concerns a 98-year-old patient who does not die during the story; but the effect of her illness on her family makes the story haunting. At times, Aronson tweaks the narrative format to make a point: In “Blurred Boundary Disorder,” the footnotes overwhelm the main text, illustrating the condition of the title. Some of these stories are stronger than others, and a few could use a more compelling plot: In “Heart Failure,” a workaholic doctor fails to respond to her neglected daughter’s increasingly urgent outbursts, but the final outcome feels anticlimactic.

It’s the tense atmospheres that Aronson creates, and her empathy for her characters, that make this a promising debut.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60819-830-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

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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THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY

THE FINCA VIGIA EDITION

What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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