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Big Cats: Stories Paperback – Deckle Edge, July 6, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the title story of this lively, honest debut collection set in California and Oregon, two 14-year-old girls, concessions workers at a zoo, get into a fistfight outside the lions' cage. The girls aren't "big" cats yet, but they're trying, and Reinhorn captures their adolescent ebullience and sexual bravado. The adults in the remaining stories are often profoundly lonely—hungering for connection, they take or conjure it where they can. The Vietnam vet and former convict narrating "My Name" works in an old age home, where he focuses his affection on a catatonic woman who briefly wakes to call him by her son's name. In "Fuck You," a terse but morally complicated piece about the subtle abuse of adult power over children, a lonely pregnant woman coerces companionship from an adolescent Little Leaguer. In "Get Away from Me, David," Reinhorn vividly evokes an alcoholic bank manager's precariousness: barely holding up under daily stresses, including an earthquake and a dead customer, he hallucinates his dead wife and contemplates a bottle of Dayquil "while the world is murmuring alternatives." These tight and uncontrived stories bring authentic characters to vivid life. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

It's no mistake that the title of this impressive debut collection sounds very much like that of a guided-tour pamphlet at the zoo. Reinhorn ushers us through the lives of her characters, unafraid to show them in their natural, if claustrophobic, habitat, each of them anxious and pacing. Set often in a purgatorylike 1970s and delivered in prose that manages to be acerbic and beautiful all at once, these stories frequently rely on the weight of one or two moments, stretched around the characters like taffy. A Vietnam veteran tenderly nursing an old woman vividly remembers robbing a store in his dress blues. Two girls tussle on the concrete after one taunts the other with a slow-motion striptease. A troubled teenage girl is seen running on the asphalt track in her bare feet, arms spread like wings. But what's most remarkable here is Reinhorn's dialogue; it's often so perfect that you find yourself creating gestures and expressions for her characters that she never even needed to write. Annie Tully
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (July 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743272943
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743272940
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,065,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Tsila Sofer Elguez on September 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
I loved the cover featuring a leopard half body shaped in female curves and coupled with the author's lovely name, this was indeed a tempting book which delivered its hidden promise.

This collection of short stories deals with outbursts of emotions. Feelings that have been bottled up under the surface and find a moment to explode, in many different ways. Reinhorn describes a host of characters, each one is a whole entity, a round character full of different angels and many inner wounds. The stories are all disturbing in this way or another and each one can be dealt with and analyzed in detail. This, by the way, is some of my frustration with such a rich book of short stories. Each story is a world of its own. I felt it is hard to read more then one story in a sitting as they are so strong, vivid and full.

In "F--- you", a woman in some kind of personal distress that is only hinted upon picks a young boy of the road, acting, as "she should" in normal motherly situations. But somehow, although her behavior starts as seemingly appropriate, the situation turns to be awkward when she finds herself outbursting in front of this boy in her back yard pool. She now has an audience to turn her frustrations against. Although the woman does not do anything really harmful, we feel her behavior deteriorating and her way of speech seems totally out of place. This story is quite uncomfortable to the reader as many of the "not do" rules of conduct are broken and you get a picture of a woman on the edge.

"Big Cats" gives us a minute-by-minute detail of an escalation of the relationship between two teenaged girls. As the story develops we learn that each one has her reasons to team up with the other.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By reader on July 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Don't be misled by the cover of this marvelous book, as one cranky reader was. Big Cats is no kittenish collection; it's a sly, stealthy, mordant, ferocious beast - and not for the faint of heart (though I expect even girlie lit fans with open minds and appetites for the rare will appreciate it).

Reinhorn's work has garnered praise from some of America's finest contemporary writers, including Pulitzer-winner Marilynne Robinson - and it's well deserved. Her stories dwell thoughtfully, relentlessly, with great care and quiet mercy, on outcasts and misfits, men and women on the verge and in the midst, at crucible moments of decision and transformation - minute dramas handled with subtlety and generosity, rendered in elegant, engergetic prose.

Readers of contemporary literary fiction are sure to admire Reinhorn's debut, and look forward to her next books.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on August 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
Every once in a while a nugget of gold crops up in the short story collections published each year. My gold nugget is Big Cats by Holiday Reinhorn.

Reinhorn writes simply delicious dramas of "real life" and "real people" who are full-bodied, rich, multi-dimensional complex beings with complex stories. It is her talent that makes the complex, simple. She alternates between humor, sadness, poignancy and tenderness in a way that shouts out that she has developed her voice and speaks it with strength and commitment. I love the way her writing seeps into my consciousness and makes me live what she writes. Each story has its own drama to breathe life into the story, capturing its soul.

The title story, "Big Cats," of this collection is about two young girls who work at a zoo. They fight, attempting to be the "big cats" they aren't as yet. The author fixes her sights on the girls' minds and captures their spirit.

I love "My Name"! It is the story of a Vietnam vet who's lived in his own prison, so he understands and emphasizes with the catatonic woman he cares for and who calls him by her son's name. Though brief it is the connection the lonely man yearns for and is expressed with absolute tenderness.

Some years ago Reinhorn wrote the screenplay for the film Last Seen. Being familiar with the film it was wonderful to read the story that birthed it. It is about the mysterious disappearance of high school senior Jennifer Langsam.

Read the rest of Reinhorn's collection yourself. I don't want to give anything away. Read it and savor the flavors of life.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Michelle G. Heinrich on July 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Big Cats is one of the most genuinely enjoyable collections of short stories I've encountered in a long time. It's... well... fun! I picked up a copy at random and found myself hooked. These are not "difficult" stories by any means, but neither are they anything close to "chick lit" (as the cover might suggest). Instead they are intriguing, thoughtful and surprisingly original. For example, "Charlotte", the opening story in which a girl with a broken pelvis spies on her neighbors has echoes of everything from "Rear Window" to "White Oleander" and yet it functions entirely on its own. The stories have remarkable structure and the action never digresses into rambling interior monologues. Thus a reader is well able to devour one in a short sitting.

Reinhart has a knack for voice and characterization in that all her characters, from young girls (for example, the titular and final tales) to Vietnam Vets ("My Name") to lonely, estranged women ("The White Dog" or "F--- You") resonate with the easer. Reinhorn manages to craft fascinatingly believable characters. In fact, I often found myself wanting to hear more about certain people. Perhaps some of these stories could become seeds for future novels, Ms. Reinhorn?

Perhaps the most striking thing about all these stories is the often startling realism both in terms of dialogue and descriptions. There is a degree clarity that renders reading these tales is a bit like watching short films in an art house theatre. You can almost cast and direct them in your head! That being said, each of these stories easily stands on its own as an engrossing tale of likable characters. It's more than a "summer read", but it really is a book to enjoy.
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