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Quirky, beautifully crafted short stories.

Almond has an eye for the unconventional and singular. The title story in the collection introduces us to Billy Clamm, who accidentally shows up at a drama course when he was trying to enroll in a tax-preparation course entitled Loopholes Ahoy! But it turns out Billy takes readily to acting, even though the immediate pragmatic effect of this course is to land him a job as a Boston Tea Party reenactor. He also becomes enamored with the actor’s prerogative to change his name, so by the end he reinvents himself as William Aubergine and almost literally rides off into the sunset. In “Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched,” analyst Dr. Raymond Oss has a weakness for playing poker—and then gets a referral for Gary “Card” Sharpe, 2003 winner of the World Series of Poker, a patient who’s dealing (pun intended) rather cynically with the psychological detritus of his father. Almond ends the story with a high-stakes game that develops between the reckless doctor and the shrewd professional gambler. “Shotgun Wedding” introduces us to Carrie, who unexpectedly discovers she’s pregnant by long-distance boyfriend/fiancé Brian. Carrie hopes for a glimmer of enthusiasm from Brian, but instead of the smile she wants to imagine him having on hearing the news, all she senses is his panic. Almond saves his creepiest moments for “The Darkness Together,” in which a mother and son experience the innuendoes and depredations of a slick and disturbing companion as they travel by train from Buffalo to Toledo. Their train compartment becomes achingly claustrophobic in the company of this unwelcome stranger. Almond’s stories range from the hilarious to the poignant—and he’s able to strike almost every note in between.  


Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-9845922-3-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Lookout Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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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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In a word: magnificent.

Retrospect and resolution, neither fully comprehended nor ultimately satisfying: such are the territories the masterful Munro explores in her tenth collection.

Each of its eight long tales in the Canadian author’s latest gathering (after Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, 2001, etc.) bears a one-word title, and all together embrace a multiplicity of reactions to the facts of aging, changing, remembering, regretting, and confronting one’s mortality. Three pieces focus on Juliet Henderson, a student and sometime teacher of classical culture, who waits years (in “Chance”) before rediscovering romantic happiness with the middle-aged man with whom she had shared an unusual experience during a long train journey. In “Soon,” Juliet and her baby daughter Penelope visit Juliet’s aging parents, and she learns how her unconventional life has impacted on theirs. Then, in “Silence,” a much older Juliet comes sorrowfully to terms with the emptiness in her that had forever alienated Penelope, “now living the life of a prosperous, practical matron” in a world far from her mother’s. Generational and familial incompatibility also figure crucially in “Passion,” the story (somewhat initially reminiscent of Forster’s Howards End) of a rural girl’s transformative relationship with her boyfriend’s cultured, “perfect” family—and her realization that their imperfections adumbrate her own compromised future. Further complexities—and borderline believable coincidences and recognitions—make mixed successes of “Trespasses,” in which a young girl’s unease about her impulsive parents is shown to stem from a secret long kept from her, and “Tricks,” an excruciatingly sad account of a lonely girl’s happenstance relationship with the immigrant clockmaker she meets while attending a Shakespeare festival, the promise she tries and helplessly fails to keep, and the damaging misunderstanding that, she ruefully reasons, “Shakespeare should have prepared her.” Then there are the masterpieces: the title story’s wrenching portrayal of an emotionally abused young wife’s inability to leave her laconic husband; and the brilliant novella “Powers,” which spans years and lives, a truncated female friendship that might have offered sustenance and salvation, and contains acute, revelatory discriminations between how women and men experience and perceive “reality.”

In a word: magnificent.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-4281-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004

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