A collection of enjoyable stories from an author with an engaging voice.

READ REVIEW

Rosa’s Gift and Other Stories

Nine short stories that hinge on transformative moments.

In “Writing Class,” one of the tales in Cantwell’s (The Tollan Trilogy, 2012, etc.) latest collection, a professor teaching a writing course at Columbia University confesses to his class that they’ll likely never strike it rich as bestselling authors but quickly tells them of his belief “that writing literature, like other creative endeavors, can bring a kind of redemption to writers as well as readers.” Redemption, desperately sought and often movingly achieved, drives many of these stories. In the collection’s title story, the protagonist, Peter, seeks to help a young girl he meets in Antigua; in “True Love,” a man learns of his ex-wife’s sudden death and reflects back on their tempestuous past; and in the O. Henry–esque “Christmas in the Great Depression,” a stubbornly optimistic young boy yearns for—and then campaigns for—a bicycle his family can’t afford. Cantwell’s outlook is optimistic but resolutely unsentimental; his characters never pull their punches, either with each other or themselves. The collection features some lovely turns of phrase (“The air was pungent with the scent of asphodel and wild rhododendron. Early evening crickets sang them on their way. Olive trees arcaded the stairs”), but the theme of transformation is the real heart of these stories—the ways that people can change each other, frequently without intending to do so. There are also no outright villains, even when characters resort to violence, and most stories contain a steady undercurrent of winking humor. Several tales are openly nostalgic (such as “Golden Gloves,” a winsome story about a 1939 boys boxing match in East Detroit), and all are filled with believable dialogue and well-drawn, if simple, characters. The humanity of these stories lies in the belief that salvation is always possible and that there are no truly lost causes.

A collection of enjoyable stories from an author with an engaging voice.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-1491704257

Page Count: 138

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A cozy quilt of recycled rom-com tropes.

THIS TIME NEXT YEAR

British babies born in the same hospital in the first minutes of New Years' Day 1990 meet again on their 30th birthdays.

"Look, Shaylene, I'm sure you've seen Sleepless in Seattle? You know that bit where Meg Ryan is supposed to meet Tom Hanks at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine's Day? Well I'm in a situation a bit like that," pleads the likable but self-defeating pie entrepreneur Minnie Cooper during the climax of Cousens' debut. Yes, she certainly is, having struggled for more than 300 pages through every rom-com trope in the book. Her story begins on New Years' Eve 1989, when her mother, Connie, goes through labor with a waifish but well-heeled wardmate named Tara Hamilton. One of them will win a cash prize for giving birth to the first baby of 1990, and wouldn't you know, it's the rich lady who doesn't need the money. Not only that, she steals the lucky name Connie has chosen for her child: Quinn. Furious, the Coopers decide instead on Minnie, not realizing that this will subject their daughter to a lifetime of self-esteem–crushing car jokes. On the other hand, Minnie needs her self-esteem crushed so that when she runs into the rich, handsome, mensch-y Quinn Hamilton on their shared birthday 30 years later she can spend a year spontaneously generating one mistaken impression after another so the two don't just accept what fate so clearly intends for them. While Quinn and Minnie don't stray far from type, they are surrounded by an entertaining supporting cast—Minnie's irritating punster boyfriend; her amateur horologist dad; her employees at the not-for-profit pie bakery, particularly a platinum blond wastrel named Fleur. Mother Connie is a bit of a problem, though. Seething with resentment about the stolen name and other injustices, she's a cold and negative mother who passes the chip on her shoulder to her daughter—until something happens offstage and she turns into a completely different person. Not sure what movie this comes from, but it doesn't work.

A cozy quilt of recycled rom-com tropes.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • IndieBound Bestseller

RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more