An evocative collection that conveys the potency of desire in even the most ordinary lives.



In her first book to be published in English, Colombian author García Robayo plunks readers into nine seemingly mundane lives.

In the opening novella, Waiting for a Hurricane, a young woman aches to escape the world she has been born into: a coastal Colombian city where the lagoon, “because it was full of crap,” overflows when it rains and a “common as muck” family that refuses to face reality. Since the age of 7, the narrator has seen herself as different from the “lost causes” around her and so she makes bold personal and professional choices in order to forge her own path in the world. As the book moves into its second section, a collection of short stories published in Spanish as Worse Things, it continues to follow individuals eager to escape the frustrations of life. In "You Are Here," for instance, a salesman winds up in the “biggest hotel in Europe” after an accident at the Madrid airport results in all planes being grounded. All the man wants to do is wash up, have a smoke, and fly home to his wife, but the insistent hotel staff blocks even his small attempts to find comfort. In another story, "Worse Things," an adolescent named Titi finds ways to slowly withdraw into himself as his family monitors the space he takes up in the world. At first glance, the two novellas and seven short stories of this collection might appear to be quiet slices of everyday life. García Robayo’s thoughtful prose, however, which expertly combines playful wit with careful restraint, infuses each story with a powerful undercurrent of desire that can turn ordinary events like skipping school, chatting with neighbors, or stomaching an unexpected layover into surreal, often unnerving, encounters. While this emphasis on yearning appears most explicitly in the second novella, Sexual Education—an often humorous, refreshingly frank depiction of the expectations of chastity, pulls of desire, and atmosphere of confusion that encircle the lives of teenage girls—the unspoken longings and unanswered questions of the other tales similarly leave readers eager for more work from García Robayo.

An evocative collection that conveys the potency of desire in even the most ordinary lives.

Pub Date: Dec. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9998593-0-5

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Charco Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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