From Publishers Weekly
Harris, author of the bestsellers Chocolat
and Holy Fools
, delivers 22 sharp and wickedly provocative stories. In "Faith and Hope Go Shopping," two elderly women dream of escaping their nursing home and trading in their leatherette slip-ons for the perfect pair of Jimmy Choos. The narrator of "A Place in the Sun" goes to desperate lengths to penetrate the all-exclusive Platinum Sands beach, from which everyone but the "infinitely sexy, ultimately desirable" is barred. In "The Ugly Sister," Harris casts one of Cinderella's stepsisters in a sympathetic light, bringing an equally notorious and misunderstood fairy tale character into the picture to steal her heart. The protagonist of "Come in, Mr. Lowry, Your Number Is Up!" wins the lottery and spends his money recklessly only to discover that the ominous thing he truly wants he cannot buy. And when Angela K, the 29-year-old society columnist of "Hello, Goodbye" covers a celebrity funeral, she comes to understand the bizarre attraction of death and the twisted emotions that often accompany it. With themes ranging from ageism to magic and the harrowing intricacies of relationships, Harris's varied tales capture and magnify our hopes and flaws.
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The popular author of Chocolat
(1999) and Five Quarters of the Orange
(2001) is best known for her sensual descriptions of food and her pleasing portraits of small-town life in France. Fans who pick up this collection of 22 short stories will be surprised at the new directions Harris explores here. Very brief stories prefaced by one- or two-sentence explanations of their origins reveal Harris' tart take on working out at the gym ("not my favorite place") or cosmetic surgery. Others, more fantastical in nature, ponder what would happen if an author ended up in a room with the characters from manuscripts long left unfinished or the plight of a monster who lures victims by setting up elaborate role-playing games. Also included is an impassioned retelling of the Cinderella story from the ugly stepsister's viewpoint and a tale about a young wife who discovers that the recipes in her mother-in-law's treasured if musty cookbook often have unintended consequences. It's possible that staunch Harris fans will be put off by her dark and fanciful tales because they are so unlike her mainstream fiction. Some of the stories, as well, seem to be more tossed off than fleshed out. Still, these inventive, darkly humorous pieces might intrigue readers looking for something entirely different. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved