Refreshingly simple: A flexible new voice able to record the more subtle effects of racial tension.




Eleven debut stories from a voice determined to transcend the barrier of race.

Allen’s characters are mostly African-American, but you’d never really know it—these pieces often take place without the subject of race ever coming to the fore. Unlike a lot of fiction based on American racial tension, Allen’s tales shoot for a deeper, more profound experience, one that sometimes includes race but never relies on it. “Carved in Vinyl” concerns a woman whose assent into middle age triggers memories of a simpler time, when things were all “boss” and R&B; the title story follows a man on what may be his final ride home from work, an event inspiring quiet contemplation of life and marriage; the movement of a circus from town to town (“Mud Show”) makes for a convincing period piece and a potentially violent forum when an elephant gets sick and may go haywire; while “Marisol’s Things” follows two young sisters as they make the trek through childhood, young adulthood, eventual estrangement, and finally a subtle form of forgiveness. “Keep Looking” is a second-person account of a woman in a bookstore who feels a man’s eyes on her back; and another woman’s unusual medical condition makes for the stuff of freak shows in a period piece set in 1919. Much of the time, there seems a need in Allen to resist the penetration of race into her stories—and it’s a relief that she succeeds in banishing that customary obligation, to the extent she can, as does Tiffany, in “Yearbook:”: “She clenches the cross in a fist, reels back, and throws it as far away from her as she can. But it is very light, and travels only a few yards before it drops in the grass and lies there, glinting dully back at her.”

Refreshingly simple: A flexible new voice able to record the more subtle effects of racial tension.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8262-1444-4

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Univ. of Missouri

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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A literary tour de force of precariousness set in a blistering place, a state shaped like a gun.

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In 11 electric short stories, the gifted Groff (Fates and Furies, 2015, etc.) unpacks the “dread and heat” of her home state.

In her first fiction since President Barack Obama named Fates and Furies his favorite book of the year, Groff collects her singing, stinging stories of foreboding and strangeness in the Sunshine State. Groff lives in Gainesville with a husband and two sons, and four of these tales are told from the perspectives of unmoored married mothers of young ones. The first, “Ghosts and Empties,” which appeared in the New Yorker, begins with the line, “I have somehow become a woman who yells,” a disposition the narrator tries to quell by walking at all hours as “the neighbors’ lives reveal themselves, the lit windows domestic aquariums.” Groff fans will recognize the descriptive zest instantly. The same quasi-hapless mother seems to narrate “The Midnight Zone,” in which she imperils the lives of her boys by falling off a stool and hitting her head while alone with them at a remote cabin, “where one thing [she] liked was how the screens at night pulsed with the tender bellies of lizards.” Ditto for the lonely oddballs telling “Flower Hunters” and “Yport,” the longest and last story, in which the reckless mother is often coated in alcohol. These are raw, danger-riddled, linguistically potent pieces. They unsettle their readers at every pass. In the dreamy, terrific “Dogs Go Wolf,” two little girls are abandoned on an island, their starvation lyrical: “The older sister’s body was made of air. She was a balloon, skidding over the ground”; their rescue is akin to a fairy tale. Equally mesmerizing is “Above and Below,” in which the graduate student narrator sinks away and dissipates into vivid, exacting homelessness. Even the few stories that dribble off rather than end, such as “For the God of Love, For the Love of God,” have passages of surpassing beauty. And Groff gets the humid, pervasive white racism that isn’t her point but curdles through plenty of her characters.

A literary tour de force of precariousness set in a blistering place, a state shaped like a gun.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59463-451-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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The thirty-one stories of the late Flannery O'Connor, collected for the first time. In addition to the nineteen stories gathered in her lifetime in Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965) and A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955) there are twelve previously published here and there. Flannery O'Connor's last story, "The Geranium," is a rewritten version of the first which appears here, submitted in 1947 for her master's thesis at the State University of Iowa.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1971

ISBN: 0374515360

Page Count: 555

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1971

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