A powerful, thought-provoking selection of fiction from a talented author.

A LITTLE CHATTER

A collection of reflective, slice-of-life tales.

Connell, the author of Slaves to the Rhythm: A Love Story (2010), presents a diverse anthology of short stories that are simple yet affecting. In “Quiet Time,” teenage Lena navigates her life in a treatment facility following an accidental overdose; in “What’s Your Pleasure?” Russ works at a bar in Philadelphia and wrestles with a self-proclaimed prophecy that he’ll forever be a loser; Cecelia comes to terms with her closeted gay husband leaving her in “At Arm’s Length.” Some stories center on compelling everyday encounters, such as “More Than Welcome,” in which a man must go to the local health clinic after he cracks his tooth. Other pieces have their protagonists experience weighty, influential moments; for example, Vera in “Black Habits” discovers her sexual orientation and fights off a predatory nun. The stories are often dense with vivid imagery, particularly “The Creepy,” set in Cartagena, Colombia: “The humidity hung so thick in the air he could barely take a breath when he stepped onto the balcony….He could smell their perfume and peppermint gum as they click-click-clicked beneath the balcony on high heels.” The standout tale, though, is “The Tire Swing”; it’s simple and evocative as it follows an elderly man as he relearns his youthful ability to be fully present in his body and in the world. Its prose is lyrical but direct, with a shift to a second-person point of view that heightens the empathy between readers and the protagonist. Overall, Connell’s stories are insightful while maintaining a keen sense of humor. The most striking aspect of his writing is his ability to capture the beauty and intrigue in mundane elements of his characters’ lives. However, the stories often end abruptly, and a few of the endings are certain to leave readers wanting more.

A powerful, thought-provoking selection of fiction from a talented author.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-70039-765-2

Page Count: 119

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

THE RAVAGED

This debut novel from Walking Dead actor Reedus follows three thematically connected yet narratively unrelated people as they journey to find themselves.

Hunter, a heavily tatted Iraq War vet and self-proclaimed gearhead, attacks his boss at the bike shop after catching him kicking a dog. “Hunter was old school,” the narrator says, rough-hewn but with strong moral fiber and a heart of gold. After learning his father died in a “mysterious house fire” in California, Hunter hops on his Buell S1 motorcycle alongside his buddies Nugget and Itch for a cross-country haul to execute the will. Meanwhile, a wealthy 65-year-old executive named Jack is mugged while traveling aimlessly through South America, neither the first nor the last of his hardships. Jack abandoned his cushy, bloodless office lifestyle after his dying mother told him to “run and never look back,” words he continuously labors to unpack. Finally, Anne, an abused teenage girl in Tennessee, steals her father’s savings and .38 revolver and runs away from home, clobbering her brother upside the head with a cast-iron skillet when he tries to stop her. She connects with her friend Trot, and they join a community of train-hoppers. Co-written by Bill, the story reads like a pastiche of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the latter of which is name-dropped as “great” by multiple characters. Though occasionally hitting some beautiful imagery of the American heartland, Reedus falls victim to implausible dialogue—“Fabiola, you are reading me like a stock report,” Jack says—and overcooked language: “flesh the color of a high-dollar medium-roast coffee bean.” Frequently wordy summaries do little to develop the thinly sketched characters; we know nearly as much about them on Page 25 as on Page 250.

A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-09-416680-3

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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