Quietly absorbing tales with indelible characters.

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SOARING CRIMSON TALES

This debut collection of 10 short stories boasts elements of magic, SF, and compassion.

Characters in these tales, which are predominantly set in Madras (aka Chennai), India, sometimes encounter the otherworldly. In “Upper Class,” for example, young Alauddin is an orphan serving coffee to train passengers traveling from Madras to Calcutta. But he does something extraordinary when he, draped in a chaadar (shawl), steps off the moving train and seemingly flies away. Similarly, in the eerie “Blood Red and Black,” a house in a small community is now vacant after two people committed suicide there. Later, one boy sees house lizards inside—pale, bloodless creatures that may be more than simple reptiles. Ghosh’s succinct prose ensures that the stories as well as instances of horror remain largely ambiguous. But passages are descriptive; the author’s SF outing, in which astronauts in 2034 endure an unnerving excursion to Mars, is filled with rich details. Nevertheless, though tales of magic and the like are delightful, standouts in this collection are grounded in reality. The book opens with “Scarlet Tanager,” in which New Jerseyan Swapan Bose, piloting his new drone, spots a nest of baby birds high in a tree. But when the mother bird disappears, the Bose family looks for a way to feed the hatchlings. Another tale, “The Earthen Moon,” is a pleasant comedy featuring Madras ninth grader Sam, whose surname, incidentally, is also Bose. His school’s upcoming dance-drama could be a chance for Sam to get close to Radha Iyer, a “dainty, elegant and tall” South Indian girl. But with a principal who frowns on any male-female interaction, Sam may find proximity to Radha an unachievable goal. Ghosh’s stories are easy reads and free of profanities or graphic imagery. Regardless, there’s an impressive range of characters, from a cruel father who goes to great lengths to prohibit his son from running away again to a South Korean woman whose inheritance from her estranged Indian father is more heartfelt than lavish.

Quietly absorbing tales with indelible characters.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-943471-40-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Azalea Art Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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