Upadhyay's plain prose makes the political crisis all the more affecting.



Familial responsibility butts up against personal desires in these finely crafted stories.

Novelist and short story writer Upadhyay (The Guru of Love, 2003) assembles another fine collection of complex, haunting pieces set in Nepal. The title story juxtaposes the shocking news that Crown Prince Dipendra has shot himself after killing the entire royal family, with the relationship of taxi driver Ganga, who belatedly realizes that his brother Dharma is homosexual. In “The Wedding Hero,” a friendship between three bank workers is strained when two of the trio realize they're both attracted to the lovely Gauri; things backfire when Umesh decides to arrange and finance a coworker's wedding, in an attempt to impress Gauri. In “The Third Stage,” a retired film actor agrees to take part in a feature film to placate his wife and daughter—and realizes that the fantasy world of film is akin to the earthly, illusory world. The importance of family—and the heartbreak that can be found within—is described in “Father, Daughter,” in which a daughter's willful actions challenge a father's notions of caste. In “The Weight of a Gun,” the divorced mother of a grown schizophrenic son unexpectedly finds herself raising her ex-husband's newborn. And a junior accountant comes to realize that spectacular good looks are not necessarily the only thing to look for in a bride, in “Chintamani's Women.” Characters not only maneuver their way through the intricacies of love, but also navigate against the backdrop of Nepal's Maoist guerrillas, fighters who have been orchestrating a nearly decade-long civil war.

Upadhyay's plain prose makes the political crisis all the more affecting.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-51749-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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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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What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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