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

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

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The most comforting of comfort-food reading—with a few chills for fun.

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LEGACY

Roberts sticks to formula in this romantic thriller—which should please fans and newcomers alike.

The only daughter of a woman with a wildly successful fitness company, 7-year-old Adrian Rizzo is used to traveling with her mother for videos and photo shoots, the child star of the brand. But everything changes one night when a man breaks into their house, confronts her mother for destroying his marriage, and then dies in a fall down the stairs. Adrian spends the summer with her beloved grandparents, enjoying the idyllic pace of small-town life and making some strong connections. Several years later, teenage Adrian gains the confidence to start her own business with the help of some high school misfits who become her best friends. Fast-forward a few years: Adrian’s grandmother dies in an accident followed by the death of a friend's wife. Adrian decides to move in with her grandfather and to finally make a home. As frequently happens in Roberts’ novels, Adrian's friends all end up living nearby, and they create a loyal, loving network that sees them all through marriage, birth, loss, success, and the other touchstones of maturity. In the background lurks a threat, though: For years, Adrian has been receiving disturbing letters signed only "The Poet," and they begin to arrive more frequently. Adrian’s perfect, messy, successful life—and blossoming relationship—may be in danger from this psychopath, but her friends and family will be there to support and protect her to the happiest of endings. If you're a fan of Roberts’ thrillers, the structure of this novel will bring few surprises, but the familiarity is comforting. Roberts’ strength has always been her ability to create likable, complex characters, and this crew is even more appealing than most—they are never whiny in insecurity or snobbish in success; rather, they provide unwavering support for each other’s ups and downs.

The most comforting of comfort-food reading—with a few chills for fun.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2502-7293-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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