There’s still more to each story after the author is finished with her characters, and that’s what makes this collection so...

Nine Facts That Can Change Your Life

STORIES

Wineberg (Second Language, 2005, etc.) follows up her novel with this emotional short story collection, consisting largely of works previously published in literary journals.  

The overriding theme running through each of these 15 stories is the tenacity and vulnerability of human connection. Most of the lead characters watch one life dissolve while another begins, as their memories of past relationships persist and affect their abilities to form new ones. This plays out in obvious moments, such as when a mother leaves her daughter at college for the first time (“Taking Leave”), and in more subtle situations, such as when a woman ignores a phone message from her ex-husband in order to concentrate on her new lover. In the title piece, a woman named Grace uses a self-help newsletter to try to console herself about her husband’s decision to seek a divorce; it tells her that “relatively small hassles often have a greater impact on us than major life events do.” That statement is true for some characters but not for others, and certainly not for Grace. The most harrowing story in the collection is “A Question of Place,” in which a mother finds herself rushing her 3-year-old daughter to the hospital with a pencil jabbed into her stomach while also trying to keep her 5- and 7-year-old kids in line. When she finally faces her husband, who was unexpectedly called in to work during the crisis, she realizes that she can’t be with him anymore. But Wineberg doesn’t write the end of the marriage—she ends with the realization as a turning point. The author doesn’t resolve anything too cleanly or neatly, which is something she does quite well throughout this collection. It gives the stories more weight and makes them feel more real, and it also makes the tension between old and new lives more acute.

There’s still more to each story after the author is finished with her characters, and that’s what makes this collection so satisfying.

Pub Date: May 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9971010-0-3

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Serving House Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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