SEPARATE KINGDOMS by Valerie Laken

SEPARATE KINGDOMS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Loss, temporary and permanent, physical and emotional, is the hard, gleaming thread tying together Laken's (Dream House, 2009) short-story collection.

The book opens with "Before Long," in which a blind Russian teenager's feelings of helplessness and his comprehension of his isolation are reflected by his developing sexual awareness. In "Spectators," Arnie and Marion, a long-married couple, confront Marion's loss of her leg when Arnie encourages a reluctant Marion to participate in a golf tournament for amputees. A forlorn neighborhood in Detroit is the scene of "Scavengers," and a nameless young man, grieving the recent death of his father, finds himself inveigled into renting a bedroom to a troubled young woman who appears on his doorstep. One of the most affecting and powerful narratives is "Family Planning," wherein a childless lesbian couple journeys to Russia (where Laken has lived and worked) to begin an adoption. "God of Fire" finds a woman confronting her relationship with her strong-willed father as he rests sedated in intensive care following surgery for an aneurysm. The title story, concluding the book, is presented in the form of two columns per page. It becomes a double first-person narrative told from the perspective of a father and son, each struggling to cope with an industrial accident that has amputated the father's thumbs.

An absorbing literary exploration of the geography of loss.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-084094-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2011




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