There’s nothing mechanical about the simple humility and compassion that make the best of Trevor’s stories so moving.

A BIT ON THE SIDE

STORIES

Tenth collection from the Irish-born Trevor, a dozen wise and beautifully crafted pieces from a master.

Most of the stories have to do with adultery, though the surprise is how many of the characters manage to treat one another with grace and kindness. In the title piece, Trevor (The Story of Lucy Gault, 2003, etc.) takes us through a single day in which two middle-aged lovers in London, who have built a comfortable second life together that’s organized around daily meeting places, end their affair with the honor and dignity they believe their love deserves. A lonely librarian (“Graillis’ Legacy”) tries to reconcile his dual love for his wife and for his former lover, after both have died, by refusing to accept an inheritance from one of them. In “Rose Wept,” a gossipy teenaged girl recognizes the adult cost that her tutor has paid for his wife’s infidelity. And in the stunning “Solitude,” one of the best tales here, a woman in late middle age makes a confession to a stranger: she’s attempting to come to terms with the life-long sacrifice her parents made for her own protection, after her mother’s infidelity resulted in a terrible accident that changed all of their lives. Her confessor reassures her: “Theirs [her parents’] was the shame, yet their spirit is gentle in our conversation: guilt is not always terrible, nor shame unworthy.” This capacity for forgiveness, even under desperate circumstances, is a theme tying many of the pieces together, while others deal with betrayals of a different nature: in “Sitting With the Dead,” a bitter widow confesses to a loveless marriage; and in “Sacred Statues,” a woman’s faith in her artist-husband’s work nearly leads her to sacrifice their child.

There’s nothing mechanical about the simple humility and compassion that make the best of Trevor’s stories so moving.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-670-03343-X

Page Count: 245

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2004

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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