A solid short story in a beautiful, thin volume from an author we wish we heard more from.

PURO AMOR

A short story about love, animals, art, and Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Cisneros’ (A House of My Own: Stories from My Life, 2015, etc.) first published fiction for adults since the novel Caramelo in 2002 tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. de Rivera and their house full of love, animals, and art. Published as Volume 15 of Sarabande Books’ Quarternote chapbook series and featuring simple but evocative line drawings by the author, the story is presented in the original English and a facing Spanish translation by Valenzuela. Even though they’re never named, the main characters are clearly Kahlo and Rivera. “Mister” is a famous artist known for his drinking, womanizing, and his “frescoes taller than their blue house.” “Missus” paints at times but is mostly concerned with taking care of her husband and managing the menagerie of dogs, monkeys, cats, birds, lizards, a single fawn, and all manner of other creatures. The animals come to represent all the love and emotion present in Mr. and Mrs. de Rivera’s life and their refusal to conform to societal expectations. Why do they adopt every stray animal they can? Why do they invite famous people and Communists to parties that last all night? Because they want to. The writing is sharp and vivid, and the animals can be felt on the page. “The animals consumed more than food. They devoured Mrs. de Rivera’s attention from the moment she opened her eyes. Even before she opened her eyes. The dogs pawed and rubbed themselves on her belly and spine. They slept on her starched pillow embroidered in silk thread—‘Amor Eterno.’ They brought dirt into her bed, nosed their way under the blankets, curled themselves in the nook behind the knees, the swell of her stomach, the soles of her feet.” This story first appeared in the 2015 Washington Post Fiction Issue and has been a staple of Cisneros’ live readings for years. Cisneros manages to be one of America’s most respected authors despite her relative paucity of new work in the past 16 years. This is a good, touching story about the power of bonds and unreasonable love, but to a certain extent it leaves the reader wishing for more.

A solid short story in a beautiful, thin volume from an author we wish we heard more from.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-94644821-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sarabande

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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