Warm, often engaging stories about the challenges of five women midway through their lives’ journeys.


Thieves Never Steal in the Rain

From the Essential Prose series

A collection of short stories about the women in a tightknit family and the sometimes-supernatural difficulties they face.

The Ficola women are the protagonists of this newest work by Labozzetta (Sometimes It Snows in America, 2013, etc.), featuring 10 stories that each explore a different challenge of marriage or motherhood. Joanna struggles to save her marriage after the death of her child, while Rosemary struggles to save herself after the death of her marriage. Nancy faces family-related illness and adoption simultaneously, Barbara works to redefine herself after her children grow up and move out, and Angie searches for confidence in her own body. Labozzetta gives each character her own quirks (Joanna is artistic, Barbara is a hoarder, and so on), though at times it seems they all share one indistinct narrative voice. Still, the author successfully weaves a web of interlocking stories, with each woman moving in and out of the lives of her family members. The best stories are those that the author imbues with an unsettling sense of the supernatural. In “Villa Foresta,” for example, Joanna becomes convinced that an Italian peasant girl is the reincarnation of her daughter, while her empirical husband begins to worry for her mental condition. The scenario itself is intriguing, but it’s the conflict between grieving husband and wife that drives the story forward. “The Birthing Room” is another supernatural standout, in which the author turns the story of a mother with an empty nest into a classic poltergeist story. Both tales reflect Labozzetta’s greatest strength: taking common material—parenthood, adultery, illness—and adding something slightly uncanny. At the same time, the formula also reflects some of the author’s weaker points. For example, her premises are often stronger than her prose; her dialogue, in particular, occasionally feels unvaried and overly explanatory. Nonetheless, the characters maintain a strong, distinctly female voice throughout. They’re world-weary and wiser for it, and readers will want to enter that world. Most of the 10 stories could stand alone, but they gradually coalesce into a comprehensive, compelling family portrait—a whole that’s greater than the sum of the parts.

Warm, often engaging stories about the challenges of five women midway through their lives’ journeys.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77183-050-8

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Guernica Editions

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.


When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A daring concept not so daringly developed.


In Kidd’s (The Invention of Wings, 2014, etc.) feminist take on the New Testament, Jesus has a wife whose fondest longing is to write.

Ana is the daughter of Matthias, head scribe to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. She demonstrates an exceptional aptitude for writing, and Matthias, for a time, indulges her with reed pens, papyri, and other 16 C.E. office supplies. Her mother disapproves, but her aunt, Yaltha, mentors Ana in the ways of the enlightened women of Alexandria, from whence Yaltha, suspected of murdering her brutal husband, was exiled years before. Yaltha was also forced to give up her daughter, Chaya, for adoption. As Ana reaches puberty, parental tolerance of her nonconformity wanes, outweighed by the imperative to marry her off. Her adopted brother, Judas—yes, that Judas—is soon disowned for his nonconformity—plotting against Antipas. On the very day Ana, age 14, meets her prospective betrothed, the repellent Nathanial, in the town market, she also encounters Jesus, a young tradesman, to whom she’s instantly drawn. Their connection deepens after she encounters Jesus in the cave where she is concealing her writings about oppressed women. When Nathanial dies after his betrothal to Ana but before their marriage, Ana is shunned for insufficiently mourning him—and after refusing to become Antipas’ concubine, she is about to be stoned until Jesus defuses the situation with that famous admonition. She marries Jesus and moves into his widowed mother’s humble compound in Nazareth, accompanied by Yaltha. There, poverty, not sexism, prohibits her from continuing her writing—office supplies are expensive. Kidd skirts the issue of miracles, portraying Jesus as a fully human and, for the period, accepting husband—after a stillbirth, he condones Ana’s practice of herbal birth control. A structural problem is posed when Jesus’ active ministry begins—what will Ana’s role be? Problem avoided when, notified by Judas that Antipas is seeking her arrest, she and Yaltha journey to Alexandria in search of Chaya. In addition to depriving her of the opportunity to write the first and only contemporaneous gospel, removing Ana from the main action destroys the novel’s momentum.

A daring concept not so daringly developed.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-42976-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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