Here and there the fabric shows signs of wear, yet the workmanship remains as exquisite, as sure and strong, as ever.

A solid ninth collection of 12 varied, moving stories by the Anglo-Irish master (most recently, the novel Death in Summer, 1998).

All the usual Trevor themes are here, with sometimes subtle, sometimes merely minimal variations. The outsider who threatens a complacent marriage or other settled existence assumes nicely differentiated forms in “Three People” (a perfectly awful title), in which a man and woman are both united and paralyzed by “the love that came . . . through their pitying of each other”; “A Friend in the Trade,” whose importunate closeness to a married couple ends in his virtual banishment from their orbit; and “Against the Odds,” in which a lonely widower is fleeced by a pragmatic traveling woman, who thereafter won’t be able to forget him. Solitude saturates “Of the Cloth,” an elderly rural priest’s lament for his faith’s inglorious present; and, notably, “The Virgin’s Gift,” in which a long-cloistered cleric is mysteriously sent back out into the world, to become the long-delayed comfort of his parents’ old age. A few stories—such as “Good News,” about a child “actress” seeking a more comforting world than the one created by her separated parents; “Low Sunday, 1950,” a tepid rehash of Trevor’s overrated novel Fools of Fortune; and “Le Visiteur,” a Maupassant-like anecdote set on a Channel island—seem simply inert on the page. But two pieces are superb. “The Mourning” takes an unassuming Irish lad to London for work, unwanted complicity with the IRA, and an ensuing lifetime of uncertainty as to whether he has acted as a decent man or as a coward and traitor. And the marvelous title story depicts the passive resignation of a rural family’s youngest son, who renounces his chances for happiness, returning to serve his widowed mother’s needs, knowing that “the hills had waited for him, claiming one of their own.”

Here and there the fabric shows signs of wear, yet the workmanship remains as exquisite, as sure and strong, as ever.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-670-89373-0

Page Count: 245

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000



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



The thirty-one stories of the late Flannery O'Connor, collected for the first time. In addition to the nineteen stories gathered in her lifetime in Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965) and A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955) there are twelve previously published here and there. Flannery O'Connor's last story, "The Geranium," is a rewritten version of the first which appears here, submitted in 1947 for her master's thesis at the State University of Iowa.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1971

ISBN: 0374515360

Page Count: 555

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1971

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