Both the imperatives of multiculturalism and a proliferation of genuine literary talent have stimulated a contemporary...

BEST NEW AMERICAN VOICES 2000

Twenty previously unpublished stories, chosen by debut guest editor Wolff from entries submitted by various collegiate writing programs, community workshops, prison writing projects, and miscellaneous competitions, located in the US and Canada.

All the tales are more than formally and stylistically competent, few betray any unduly heavy influences, and several would stand out in any fictional company. The immigrant experience is explored with wry compassion in Shimon Tanaka’s unusual story (“Video Ame”) of Asian-American siblings adrift between their cultural origins and their strident new country; Kate Small’s bleak portrayal of a decimated Kosovar family relocated in Oregon (“The B-Zone Open”); and novelist William Gay’s “The Paperhanger, . . .” (its full Updikean title is much longer), in which a Pakistani woman’s resentful experience of America is imagined with nightmarish intensity. More general contemporary concerns dominate David Benioff’s [see XXXX] lusty tale of a rock-music agent unwisely involved with some certifiably weird new talent (“When the Nines Roll Over”); Merrill Feitell’s savvy scrutiny of a 30-ish urbanite whose imminent path to the altar is sidetracked by a forthright teenaged girl (“Bike New York!”), and especially Ladette Randolph’s subtle study of the complex “glimpse of transcendence” experienced by a coed who “sits” for her eccentric mentor’s even more eccentric house-pets (“The Girls”). Even better are Ana Menendez’s deeply sympathetic picturing of culture-shocked Latin American refugees in Miami (“In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd”), Adam Johnson’s dry revelation of passive young slackers thrust incongruously into thrill-seeking and “wild life” (“Cliff Gods of Acapulco”), and, most notably, “The Hatbox,” by Jennifer Vanderbes: a moving novella that gradually unfolds the interrelated ramifications of a secret that originates in East Africa and thereafter possesses, and poisons, the lives of three generations of women.

Both the imperatives of multiculturalism and a proliferation of genuine literary talent have stimulated a contemporary plethora of story anthologies. This lively volume is one of the best of them.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2000

ISBN: 0-15-601322-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2000

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters...

TRUE COLORS

Female rivalry is again the main preoccupation of Hannah’s latest Pacific Northwest sob saga (Firefly Lane, 2008, etc.).

At Water’s Edge, the family seat overlooking Hood Canal, Vivi Ann, youngest and prettiest of the Grey sisters and a champion horsewoman, has persuaded embittered patriarch Henry to turn the tumbledown ranch into a Western-style equestrian arena. Eldest sister Winona, a respected lawyer in the nearby village of Oyster Shores, hires taciturn ranch hand Dallas Raintree, a half-Native American. Middle sister Aurora, stay-at-home mother of twins, languishes in a dull marriage. Winona, overweight since adolescence, envies Vivi, whose looks get her everything she wants, especially men. Indeed, Winona’s childhood crush Luke recently proposed to Vivi. Despite Aurora’s urging (her principal role is as sisterly referee), Winona won’t tell Vivi she loves Luke. Yearning for Dallas, Vivi stands up Luke to fall into bed with the enigmatic, tattooed cowboy. Winona snitches to Luke: engagement off. Vivi marries Dallas over Henry’s objections. The love-match triumphs, and Dallas, though scarred by child abuse, is an exemplary father to son Noah. One Christmas Eve, the town floozy is raped and murdered. An eyewitness and forensic evidence incriminate Dallas. Winona refuses to represent him, consigning him to the inept services of a public defender. After a guilty verdict, he’s sentenced to life without parole. A decade later, Winona has reached an uneasy truce with Vivi, who’s still pining for Dallas. Noah is a sullen teen, Aurora a brittle but resigned divorcée. Noah learns about the Seattle Innocence Project. Could modern DNA testing methods exonerate Dallas? Will Aunt Winona redeem herself by reopening the case? The outcome, while predictable, is achieved with more suspense and less sentimental histrionics than usual for Hannah.

Above-average formula fiction, making full display of the author’s strong suits: sense of place, compassion for characters and understanding of family dynamics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36410-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2008

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