This is a beautiful exploration of how the heart’s irrational responses to love and betrayal can stand in the way of...

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WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU

Everyone hopes that love will last forever, that only other people’s loves will fail. But what if the unthinkable happens to you?

Ringwald's (Getting the Pretty Back, 2010) debut novel employs a series of interlaced stories with a constellation of characters at different stages of life facing varied obstacles (many self-created) in the path of love. Among the characters fumbling to understand their own behavior and bewildered by the consequences of their actions is Greta. She and Phillip have built a secure, happy marriage, one that helps her endure the indignities of a third round of fertility injections and the difficulties of raising their energetic 6-year-old daughter, Charlotte. When Phillip confesses he has cheated on her with Theresa, Charlotte’s 19-year-old violin teacher, Greta is staggered. She returns to her mother, Ilsa, who faces her own challenges in love, including her plan to take in Greta’s drug-addicted nephew, Milo—Milo, who is so difficult that his own mother has run away to join a New-Age yoga practice. Ilsa challenges Greta: Doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance? But Greta cannot forgive Phillip. As she tries to repair her life, Greta embarks on a relationship with the much younger Peter. Estranged from Greta, Phillip forges a friendship with Marina, whose son, Oliver, is a friend of Charlotte’s. Oliver, however, likes to dress up in Charlotte’s clothes, which leads to his being attacked by older boys. Ringwald deftly weaves together the threads of these stories, creating a tapestry that captures the emotional landscape of both young and well-worn relationships. Amid the dust of that landscape lies a sort of letter to Theresa, a letter that exposes the myriad emotions swirling in the aftermath of a betrayed love.

This is a beautiful exploration of how the heart’s irrational responses to love and betrayal can stand in the way of forgiveness.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-180946-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: It Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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