An earnest and often affecting set of tales.

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A short story collection that delves into the aftermath of trauma and the loneliness of the everyday.

In the titular story,Iris’ mother is a dog breeder, and as Iris takes care of her animals day in, day out, she’s reminded of her own loneliness and lack of autonomy. She makes origami dogs with an acquaintance at school, but she’s as alone there as she is at home. This story sets the tone for the rest of the collection, showcasing Reid’s talent for delving into character while still leaving room for reader interpretation. In “Shepherd,” Keith and his wife lost their baby and killed their marriage. Now he’s dogsitting with his best friend, Twyla, for whom he has romantic feelings, as he struggles with insurmountable grief. Grieving is also a focus of “The Mud Pit,” in which Kayla loses her best friend at a very young age and still feels the weight of an imagined life debt. This story delves into a broken relationship, as well—a theme that repeats in several other stories. In “Movement & Bones,” for instance, a woman’s husband told her he wanted a divorce right before a horrible car crash left her with one foot and one hand. Now, as he’s taking care of her, he’s acting as if everything’s fine between them, and she can’t help but wonder if he would have stayed under other circumstances. These tales highlight morally complex situations that don’t have easy solutions, and they don’t hide from the unpleasant truths of the characters. Reid allows them to make mistakes and bad decisions without losing sympathy or compassion for them. Most of all, these relatable stories manage to get to the heart of what it means to love, to be part of a family, and to continue on after tragedy.

An earnest and often affecting set of tales.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781637680643

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Autumn House Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2023



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



The range and virtuosity of these stories make this Mosley’s most adventurous and, maybe, best book.

A grandmaster of the hard-boiled crime genre shifts gears to spin bittersweet and, at times, bizarre tales about bruised, sensitive souls in love and trouble.

In one of the 17 stories that make up this collection, a supporting character says: “People are so afraid of dying that they don’t even live the little bit of life they have.” She casually drops this gnomic observation as a way of breaking down a lead character’s resistance to smoking a cigarette. But her aphorism could apply to almost all the eponymous awkward Black men examined with dry wit and deep empathy by the versatile and prolific Mosley, who takes one of his occasional departures from detective fiction to illuminate the many ways Black men confound society’s expectations and even perplex themselves. There is, for instance, Rufus Coombs, the mailroom messenger in “Pet Fly,” who connects more easily with household pests than he does with the women who work in his building. Or Albert Roundhouse, of “Almost Alyce,” who loses the love of his life and falls into a welter of alcohol, vagrancy, and, ultimately, enlightenment. Perhaps most alienated of all is Michael Trey in “Between Storms,” who locks himself in his New York City apartment after being traumatized by a major storm and finds himself taken by the outside world as a prophet—not of doom, but, maybe, peace? Not all these awkward types are hapless or benign: The short, shy surgeon in “Cut, Cut, Cut” turns out to be something like a mad scientist out of H.G. Wells while “Showdown on the Hudson” is a saga about an authentic Black cowboy from Texas who’s not exactly a perfect fit for New York City but is soon compelled to do the right thing, Western-style. The tough-minded and tenderly observant Mosley style remains constant throughout these stories even as they display varied approaches from the gothic to the surreal.

The range and virtuosity of these stories make this Mosley’s most adventurous and, maybe, best book.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4956-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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