An impressive debut.




A debut collection of intertwined short stories set in India and America.

The Almeida family, their cousins and friends live in Santa Clara, a Roman Catholic residential enclave in India. Those who remain witness over time the demolition of its graceful gardens and airy homes to make way for apartment complexes and commerce. Those who leave for America either live a life apart, at home in neither place, or, worse, live with guilt for finding happiness so far from their family. As the collection opens, Marian Almeida is a ten-year-old on the cusp of puberty in the haunting “In the Garden.” Later, in “Half the Story,” she reappears, married, living with her Irish husband and children in Cincinnati, uncertain of how to protect her older daughter from the sexuality that arrives in the form of a neighbor, a brash American divorcee. Jude Almeida, Marian’s younger brother, unwittingly instigates a wicked display of psychological violence that occurs at a New Year’s party in “The Crow and the Monkey.” In the final story, “This Is Your Home Also,” Jude is an adult, living with his elderly, increasingly ineffectual parents. In other stories, members of the extended family take center stage: Colleen, a closeted lesbian, returns from America for her mother Grace’s cataract operation in “The Bold, the Beautiful”; Grace’s son Michael and his wife visit from America with their adopted child in “Carrying”; Roddy D’Souza, a long-time friend and gymkhana card partner of Francis Almeida, begins seeing his father, who died 65 years before, riding a bike around town in the title story. Jones brings the narrative skill of a seasoned writer to this work. She is best at evoking the fearful lonesomeness of alienation, whether it is in the mind of a child observing what he cannot understand, or in the heart of a mother who cannot stop change.

An impressive debut.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4000-4276-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet