Tales that present emotionally complex characters with empathy and insight.



Themes of escape and longing ripple the calm surfaces of small Florida towns in this volume of short stories.

Like the howl of a faraway train whistle in the darkest hours of a small-town night, this thoughtful assemblage conjures up feelings of lonely goodbyes—and sometimes desperate escapes. In the collection’s first tale, “Welcome to Silver Springs, We Hate To See You Go,” a woman flees a lover who abuses their dog, but she is also escaping her oppressive hometown. Deep feelings are prevalent in these stories, and sometimes unattainable desire turns into dramatic fantasy. In “Mrs. Shiloh Sings to Her Dead Husband,” a lonely woman swears she saw a friend’s husband come back from the dead. And a mother helps her bullied son chase the mythical “chupacabra” beast in “Do You Believe?” Egnoski’s razor-sharp command of descriptive language is notable. Examining one small town, she writes: “Midway, population 2864, was as small as the period at the bottom of a question mark.” The multifaceted characters who inhabit these humid worlds are often societal outsiders—in “The Last Resort,” a low-income boy is determined to flee a special needs class. Lack of communication is also a difficulty. The title story focuses on a father quietly grappling with his teenage daughter’s abortion while he tends to a sick horse. Reflecting the struggles of the working class in an economic downturn, both the landscapes and the people are gloomy, with abandoned housing developments and men who have been on unemployment so long they “consider it a paycheck.” But the author offers plenty of hope-filled plot twists. For example, in “Veterans of a Foreign War,” a jilted wife finds solace at a VFW fish fry, and—in the soft, sexy final scene—she dances arm-in-arm with the woman who stole her husband.

Tales that present emotionally complex characters with empathy and insight.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59948-823-3

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Mint Hill Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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An exhilarating ride through Americana.


Newly released from a work farm in 1950s Kansas, where he served 18 months for involuntary manslaughter, 18-year-old Emmett Watson hits the road with his little brother, Billy, following the death of their father and the foreclosure of their Nebraska farm.

They leave to escape angry townspeople who believe Emmett got off easy, having caused the fatal fall of a taunting local boy by punching him in the nose. The whip-smart Billy, who exhibits OCD–like symptoms, convinces Emmett to drive them to San Francisco to reunite with their mother, who left town eight years ago. He insists she's there, based on postcards she sent before completely disappearing from their lives. But when Emmett's prized red Studebaker is "borrowed" by two rambunctious, New York–bound escapees from the juvie facility he just left, Emmett takes after them via freight train with Billy in tow. Billy befriends a Black veteran named Ulysses who's been riding the rails nonstop since returning home from World War II to find his wife and baby boy gone. A modern picaresque with a host of characters, competing points of view, wandering narratives, and teasing chapter endings, Towles' third novel is even more entertaining than his much-acclaimed A Gentleman in Moscow (2016). You can quibble with one or two plot turns, but there's no resisting moments such as Billy's encounter, high up in the Empire State Building in the middle of the night, with professor Abacus Abernathe, whose Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers, and Other Intrepid Travelers he's read 24 times. A remarkable blend of sweetness and doom, Towles' novel is packed with revelations about the American myth, the art of storytelling, and the unrelenting pull of history.

An exhilarating ride through Americana.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522235-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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