Eight graceful stories in a debut collection from Norton's editor in chief: tales that vary greatly in subject and setting but rely on a similar sense of revelation, and on the ``weak magic'' provided by light. The play of shadow and illumination figures prominently in Lawrence's imagistic tales, whether he's rendering moments of hazy nostalgia or highlighting an edgy sexuality. In fact, the sexual stories, with their suggestions of forbidden love, often verge on the kinky. In ``Reunion,'' a Minnesota housewife whom friends consider ``logical'' and ``consistent'' decides to meet with her former lover from New York, a man she hasn't seen in ten years; but a degrading experience on the bus to Duluth turns her desire into a fierce appetite for violent revenge. ``The Gift'' explores sadomasochism quite explicitly in the tale of a married man, frightened by his own desire for another woman, with whom he explores rough sex. The sexual secrets of Central Park rambles reveal themselves in ``Desire Lines,'' in which a young woman's passion for bird-watching results in an unexpected act of violence. Lawrence also tells a number of stories from a young boy's perspective: A privileged youth in ``Legacy'' seeks his lawyer father's advice concerning a ribbon display promised him by his dying great-aunt; another boy grows up in a multigenerational, bookish household in which the men tirelessly discuss the aftermath of WW II, which took the health of the boy's uncle; and in ``Immortality,'' the narrator, who feared his great-aunt's obese adopted daughter, discovers in adulthood that she was probably his father's lover early on. Precious memories cloud the minds of dying old folks in airless tales of an old Connecticut farmer (``The Crown of Light'') and a great-grandmother at a family gathering (``Butterflies''). Lawrence's deliberate tales quietly develop considerable force, displaying nuanced, careful artistry.

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-374-18474-7

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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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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Superb stylist L’Amour returns (End of the Drive, 1997, etc.), albeit posthumously, with ten stories never seen before in book form—and narrated in his usual hard-edged, close-cropped sentences, jutting up from under fierce blue skies. This is the first of four collections of L’Amour material expected from Bantam, edited by his daughter Angelique, featuring an eclectic mix of early historicals and adventure stories set in China, on the high seas, and in the boxing ring, all drawing from the author’s exploits as a carnival barker and from his mysterious and sundry travels. During this period, L’Amour was trying to break away from being a writer only of westerns. Also included is something of an update on Angelique’s progress with her father’s biography: i.e., a stunningly varied list of her father’s acquaintances from around the world whom she’d like to contact for her research. Meanwhile, in the title story here, a missionary’s daughter who crashes in northern Asia during the early years of the Sino-Japanese War is taken captive by a nomadic leader and kept as his wife for 15 years, until his death. When a plane lands, she must choose between taking her teenaged son back to civilization or leaving him alone with the nomads. In “By the Waters of San Tadeo,” set on the southern coast of Chile, Julie Marrat, whose father has just perished, is trapped in San Esteban, a gold field surrounded by impassable mountains, with only one inlet available for anyone’s escape. “Meeting at Falmouth,” a historical, takes place in January 1794 during a dreadful Atlantic storm: “Volleys of rain rattled along the cobblestones like a scattering of broken teeth.” In this a notorious American, unnamed until the last paragraph, helps Talleyrand flee to America. A master storyteller only whets the appetite for his next three volumes.

Pub Date: May 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-10963-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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