A remarkable collection that fans of literary short fiction should deeply enjoy.



A decades-spanning volume of short stories depicts the foibles of family and culture.

Rangel-Ribeiro (Baroque Music: A Practical Guide for the Performer, 2016, etc.) follows the lives of Indians at home and abroad in this thematically linked collection. The first two sections of the book, set in Goa and Mumbai, track characters as they navigate the shifting landscape between tradition and modernity. In the title story, the town of Tivolem is forced to deal with a local thief who can’t help himself from stealing—in obvious fashion—the possessions of his neighbors. In “Moon Dance,” two impoverished aristocrats argue over money in an antique carriage on the way home from a fair. In “Night Encounter,” a student’s viewing of a salacious American film inspires him to wander the Bombay streets at night, searching for adventure: “The papers said you had only to step out into the streets of an evening to be accosted by painted houris; pimps would sidle up to passersby, offering illicit pleasures. Had he somehow picked the wrong time, or the wrong day?” The final section is set in New York and concerns the experiences of Indian immigrants and their families as they assimilate into the American melting pot. In “A Kiss for Nandini,” a white American wedding crasher stumbles into an Indian wedding and falls for the eponymous bridesmaid. In “Lonely Aging Chinese-American New York Neighbor Lady,” an elderly Indian widow arrives in New York to live with her son and becomes fascinated by her Chinese neighbor across the street. Rangel-Ribeiro’s prose is lush and funny and perfectly captures the parochial worldviews of his vivid characters. The appealing collection represents the author’s work going back to 1949, and most of these tales feel distinctly like they are from another time. This works in their favor as old settings, expressions, and ways of telling a story combine perfectly into the short fiction equivalent of comfort food. Standouts include “Angel Wings,” “Loving Ayesha,” “How I Missed My Chance to Become a Real Porn Star,” and “Uncle Prabhu’s Special Y2K Party.”

A remarkable collection that fans of literary short fiction should deeply enjoy.

Pub Date: March 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9977797-1-4

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Serving House Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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