Incisive and riveting tales with a diverse cast courtesy of a skillful, expressive author.

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In this collection of short stories, characters seek vengeance or strive for forgiveness.

Ray’s tale “Black Kettle” follows the titular, real-life Cheyenne chief, who fights to protect his people. Despite the tribe’s irrefutable surrender, Col. John Chivington leads a massacre at Black Kettle’s village. But the story, notwithstanding the chief’s never-ending pursuit of peace, centers on revenge against Chivington. Characters in several of the tales yearn for retribution. In “Republic of Fear,” a grandfather sends his grandson to avenge the boy’s dead father; in “The World Clean and Bright,” a young tribe member tracks down those responsible for the deaths of a loved one’s parents. At the same time, individuals are also forgiving. The unnamed woman of the heart-rending “The Current Kings,” for example, seems willing to forgive the men who seize her with unmistakably malicious intent. And “The Debt Men” features two characters, Zach Harrelson and Phil Silven, with turmoil in their marriages. Absolution may be in the cards for both even if only one man is truly deserving. Most of the tales unfold in Montana, including the unorthodox and curious “Love is Blindness.” In it, an affair threatens to separate married couple Michael White and Kristina Rosamonde, but a sudden injury will either split them apart or reunite them. A few historical figures, in addition to Black Kettle, make appearances. The protagonists of the collection’s sole poem, “City on the Threshold of Stars,” are Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík, Czech soldiers who played a part in the assassination of the Butcher of Prague, Reinhard Heydrich.

The author, a clinical psychologist who “spent part of his childhood on the Northern Cheyenne reservation,” tackles race in intelligent and sundry ways. It’s blunt in “Black Kettle,” as, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Cheyenne wish to kill Chivington while the colonel brazenly displays Native American scalps next to the United States flag. But “The Diplomat” is from the perspective of an American at an embassy in Africa; his own country’s racism sparks White guilt and a desire to help someone in need. And “Spirit of the Animal” is essentially a love story between Bird In Ground, a Cheyenne woman, and Jeroen, a White man she aids after he narrowly survives a wolverine attack. Ray aptly establishes characters who boast distinctive personalities and complex family ties. In “The Hunger, the Light,” Jakob hates his abusive parents, who, in turn, despise each other, and in “Fourteen Types of Belief,” gifted college basketball player Everett Highwalker takes inspiration from his dead half-Cheyenne father. While the stories have their share of hatred and death, the book doesn’t succumb to despondency. Myriad characters are steadfast in their beliefs, a stance that promotes strength. This is further exemplified by the author’s prose, which is poetic even when describing the harsh elements some Cheyenne families face in “Black Wound”: “Northward still, flurries of snow placed white ledges on the limbs of trees and as the band progressed the sky turned dense until land and sky were one and the edges of the world had smoothed into a blanket under which their dreams and desires slept like animals of a forgotten country, like bears under the dark of den and breath.”

Incisive and riveting tales with a diverse cast courtesy of a skillful, expressive author.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947021-94-5

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Unsolicited Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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