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Some diverting anecdotes about life in upstate New York, although many lack tension and depth.

Short stories about family life inspired by a strong faith and belief in miracles.

Beyea opens this collection of fiction and memoir with an endearing story about Sam—a puppy that the narrator’s four children adopted right off their front porch: “Yes, it was just a mutt, but to our kids this was the purest of pure breeds, delivered to them by divine providence.” Sam has a happy, full life despite her sad ending, and Beyea is not entirely figurative when he describes the dog as being delivered by divine providence. Overall, these stories are about everyday life, stressing a belief in God and occasionally invoking typical dad humor. In “He Was a Forty Niner,” the author remembers his “workaholic” father who used to take him and his older brother Bud to the “woodlot” where they would “recreate” things—cutting trees, converting them into fence posts, and indulging in other woodworking projects. In “Baked Beans and Apple Pie,” Beyea remembers his equally industrious mother, Gertie, an “expert seamstress and chef.” Overall, the stories focus on the positive and read more like anecdotal memories than complete narratives; Beyea is a reflective narrator, but his stories lack plot development and other aspects of truly engaging storytelling. The primary strength of the book is in its candor and rumination on the simpler things in life, such as bird-watching and taking in beautiful scenery. Describing his lake house on Lake Champlain, Beyea writes, “We watched magnificent bald eagles, swoop like dive bombers and snatch fish from the lake. For over a year, we were content to relax on our deck and enjoy the beauty created by God.” As a retired New York City police officer, Beyea also offers an intriguing perspective on criminal justice; in one vignette, he remembers coordinating a “restorative justice” program for youth in Clinton County in upstate New York.

Some diverting anecdotes about life in upstate New York, although many lack tension and depth.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5320-8413-3

Page Count: 156

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2020

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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The range and virtuosity of these stories make this Mosley’s most adventurous and, maybe, best book.

A grandmaster of the hard-boiled crime genre shifts gears to spin bittersweet and, at times, bizarre tales about bruised, sensitive souls in love and trouble.

In one of the 17 stories that make up this collection, a supporting character says: “People are so afraid of dying that they don’t even live the little bit of life they have.” She casually drops this gnomic observation as a way of breaking down a lead character’s resistance to smoking a cigarette. But her aphorism could apply to almost all the eponymous awkward Black men examined with dry wit and deep empathy by the versatile and prolific Mosley, who takes one of his occasional departures from detective fiction to illuminate the many ways Black men confound society’s expectations and even perplex themselves. There is, for instance, Rufus Coombs, the mailroom messenger in “Pet Fly,” who connects more easily with household pests than he does with the women who work in his building. Or Albert Roundhouse, of “Almost Alyce,” who loses the love of his life and falls into a welter of alcohol, vagrancy, and, ultimately, enlightenment. Perhaps most alienated of all is Michael Trey in “Between Storms,” who locks himself in his New York City apartment after being traumatized by a major storm and finds himself taken by the outside world as a prophet—not of doom, but, maybe, peace? Not all these awkward types are hapless or benign: The short, shy surgeon in “Cut, Cut, Cut” turns out to be something like a mad scientist out of H.G. Wells while “Showdown on the Hudson” is a saga about an authentic Black cowboy from Texas who’s not exactly a perfect fit for New York City but is soon compelled to do the right thing, Western-style. The tough-minded and tenderly observant Mosley style remains constant throughout these stories even as they display varied approaches from the gothic to the surreal.

The range and virtuosity of these stories make this Mosley’s most adventurous and, maybe, best book.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4956-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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