A superbly wrought set of tales, as beguiling as a midnight serenade.

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HOWLING AT THE MOON

Ineffectual, exuberant cries of protest are among the many ripostes to life’s absurdities in this scintillating collection of stories.

The conundrums in which Mayfield’s characters find themselves run the gamut from loveless marriage to familial die-off to disappointment on a truly epic scale. In the mordantly funny title story, a man arrives at his mother’s funeral only to be presented with a coffin containing the wrong corpse—and ends up mourning the beatific stranger more than he does his own flesh and blood. In the moving “Reliquary,” a husband who has devotedly tended his paralyzed wife for 20 years (her only means of communication are blinks and expressive eye rolls) suddenly discovers that he’s the dependent partner in the relationship. “The Next One” finds a young white schoolteacher in New Orleans in over her head when she reaches out to a troubled black student. And the simultaneously sardonic and elegiac “Which Way’s Ireland?” imagines Charles Lindbergh’s luckless double: a young flier who sets out on a solo crossing of the Atlantic in 1927, only to wind up in the most humiliating possible place. The author moves confidently across a range of registers, from the raucous cynicism of “Food Chain,” which casts Manhattan as a state of nature where everyone is both predator and prey, to the fraught pathos of “Mothers,” in which the parents of a pregnant teen, anxious that she arrange her life perfectly, pressure her to have an abortion. He writes with a deadpan wit and a limpid prose style shot through with flashes of eyeball-searing imagery. (“…head quivering, his slack-jawed mouth fixed in a jagged cracked egg of a grin as if he’s about to add a ha-cha-cha-cha like Jimmy Durante,” reads his unforgettable thumbnail of a New York street weirdo.) More than that, Mayfield has a sharp psychological acuity that really gets under the skin of his characters as they mount sublimely inappropriate responses to tragi-comic predicaments.

A superbly wrought set of tales, as beguiling as a midnight serenade.

Pub Date: April 29, 2010

ISBN: 978-0975331415

Page Count: 146

Publisher: Mount Parnassus Press

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2010

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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