THE BEST REVENGE

SHORT STORIES

Brisk and (generally) unsentimental stories of New England rural life, by an emerging New Hampshire writer whose flinty wit may remind readers of Maine's Carolyn Chute or Vermont's E. Annie Proulx. Of the 19 tales gathered here, several have previously appeared in Rule's Wood Heat (1992, not reviewed). Her narrative situations tend toward monotonyunappreciated housewives, selfish and inconsiderate husbands, ignored and inquisitive kids predominatebut a real unity is gained by her fierce concentration on people who lead stunted, unfulfilled lives and know in their bones they were meant for something better. The collection begins impressively, with an inventive image of down-eastern sheer cussedness at a contentious school-district meeting (``Yankee Curse'') and the tangy title story, in which an embattled woman finds surcease from a lingering illness in adapting her newfound skills as a potter to contemplate voodoo against a self-righteous neighbor. If too many of the subsequent pieces focus on daughters fishing with their fathers, or deprived spouses confronting their overgrown-boy husbands, Rule nevertheless manages several almost- total successes. There's a charming example of her feel for the tensions between stubborn townsfolk and naive newcomers in ``The Widow and the Trapper,'' effectively varied portrayals of the psyches of lonely and misunderstood women in ``Etta Walks'' and ``Ada among the Dogs,'' and a deeply moving, richly metaphoric study of a well-meaning failure in the volume's best story, ``The Fisher Cat.'' Rule knows her fishing, farming, and trapping details and can raise a reader's eyebrows with salty dialogue (``She's not a witch....She's a baptist'') and vigorous imagery (when a Little League base-runner is incorrectly called out, Rule writes, ``They'll have to pry him off this base like a bloodsucker from a swimmer's calf''). This strong book is a bit like a New England barn: rough- edged, with unaccountable gaps and overhangs and nails hammered into places where they're not needed. But it does the job, and looks built to last.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1995

ISBN: 0-87451-702-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1995

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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