From Publishers Weekly
The 11 previously published stories in this strong collection showcase Burke's handling of familiar themes and places, minus the trappings that accompany his popular Dave Robicheaux or Bill Bob Holland novels. The inevitable marriage of war and atrocity is powerfully described in the very brief Vietnam War tale, "The Village." The title story, one of two dealing with Katrina and its aftermath, shows the lasting damage of war on survivors. Both "Winter Light" and "A Season of Regret" feature disillusioned, stoical academics, loners coping with the encroachments of cruder society. Most wrenching and affecting are several coming-of-age tales: "Texas City, 1947" depicts brutalized children and contains a surprising dénouement; "The Molester" and "The Burning of the Flag" both feature childhood friends from the WWII era confronting bullies or demons. Burke demonstrates impressive range, sensitivity and polish in these smaller-scale gems. (June)
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Burke's celebrated Dave Robicheaux mystery series hinges on encounters between the powerless and the powerful; the powerless usually lose, of course, but at least they have New Iberia, Louisiana, policeman Robicheaux to fight some of their battles for them. The 11 stories in this collection of Burke's short fiction also dramatize what happens when poor people are trapped in the vice of circumstances beyond their control, but here there is no Robicheaux to come to their aid. Although some of the stories concern individuals caught in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina--the ultimate circumstance beyond one's control--the majority are set in the past, usually rural Louisiana or Mississippi in the late 1940s. Whether the lead characters are abused children or prostitutes trying to escape the life, Burke always makes us see both the near certainty of tragedy to come and the smoldering embers of possibility in the ashes of blighted lives. He is both a deeply romantic and an unremittingly realistic writer, and it is in that tension that his lyrical prose takes flight: "But even in the middle of an Indian summer's day, when the sugarcane is beaten with purple and gold light in the fields, . . . I have to mourn just a moment for those people of years ago who lived lives they did not choose, who carried burdens that were not their own." Bill OttCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved