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A Perfect Stranger: And Other Stories Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (April 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375509186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375509186
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,050,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Robinson's third collection proves her a master of the short story (she has also written three novels, including 2003's Sweetwater). Her finely tuned realism, as well as her settings and characters—New York, its bedroom communities, the Eastern seaboard and the comfortable upper-middle-class living there—recall Cheever and Updike. ("The Football Game" is such pitch-perfect Cheever as to be slightly suspect as a gentle parody.) Robinson approaches the huge misunderstandings of family life from many angles and anything but timidly. In "Family Christmas," a child confronted with adult mysteries says, "I knew that this language I was trying to learn could not be learned directly, that it was something that had to be absorbed blindly and obliquely.... We would have to learn it through signs, inflections, looks and sighs and tones of voice." Robinson is unusually good with the "strange foreign tongue" of the elderly: the aristocratic grandparents of "Family Christmas"; the dogged, long-married battlers of "Assistance"; the malevolent Santa Fe misanthrope of "Shame"; the befuddled British visitor of the title story. Even the younger couples in the only linked stories, "Choosing Sides" and "Assez," are grandparents, and what they say about grandparenthood is arresting. But the collection's most affecting stories touch on the chasm between parents and children, husbands and wives. Robinson's ear is wonderful, her graceful prose a real pleasure. Agent, Lynn Nesbit. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–This collection of stories is most notable for its variety and diverse points of view. In Family Christmas, readers are privy to the confused thoughts and emotions of a girl as she recounts the tensions and unhappiness of the adults around her, trying to make sense of the charged atmosphere. Readers understand the complex issues and ache for the child observer. The other first-person narratives are equally compelling: Face-lift is about two girls who meet in boarding school and continue their friendship into adulthood. The story is told from the perspective of the one who observes and envies the exciting life of the other. Envy is also the theme of The Football Game. Here, it is the apparently normal, carefree McArdles and their way of life that is dramatically revealed to be …more dangerous and beautiful…and immanent with love and sorrow than the narrator ever imagined. In other tales, the author recounts the desperation and despair of a housewife and the complex conversations at a dinner party in which the guest of honor is as reluctant as the host; in Shame, the narrator comes to terms with her selfhood, defiantly affirming her lesbianism. The descriptive language presents a vivid sense of place that subtly illuminates and complements the strong characterizations in each of the narratives. Readers looking for good stories and examples of good writing will be more than satisfied.–Jackie Gropman, Chantilly Regional Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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So it was with great expectation that I began reading A Perfect Stranger and Other Stories.
Armchair Interviews
Roxanna Robinson explores relationship conflicts, unexpected life tragedies with such clear vision, precise detail, you feel placed inside each story.
newenglandreader
The author descibes characters and landscapes with a wonderful style, like embroidering a soft piece of silk.
silvia feil

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Katrina Denza on May 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The thirteen stories in Roxana Robinson's newest collection all share an amazing elegance, clear insight into human nature, and at times, breath-stopping tension.

In "Family Christmas," a young girl witnesses an event that opens her eyes to an adult world full of complexities, contradictions and class divisions. In "The Face Lift," a woman gets together with an old school friend who possesses a vitality she once envied. The woman soon discovers things are not always what they seem and no one is impervious to danger. The ending of this one is brilliant. In "Choosing Sides," a woman not only finds out her son has fathered a child but that he doesn't want to stick around to parent it. The woman must decide if she wants the child in her life.

Two of the most riveting stories in the collection, "At the Beach" and "The Treatment," showcase Robinson's command of a story and how much tension it should deliver and when. "At the Beach" captures perfectly the panic experienced by a beach full of people who for one moment fear the worst has happened, and "The Treatment" stars a woman with a terminal illness who eventually feels forced to protect her faith in her body's ability to heal.

I cannot say enough about how powerful and beautifully written this collection is. A fully satisfying read straight through.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on August 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Roxana Robinson has authored two short story collections, a biography of Georgia O'Keeffe, and three novels. Sweetwater is one of my top-ten all-time favorite novels. So it was with great expectation that I began reading A Perfect Stranger and Other Stories. And what a delectable read it was. Robinson is as proficient at writing short fiction as she is writing the novel. And she seems to be equally as comfortable.

Each story in Robinson's collection immerses the reader into a world of relationships where she introduces us to her rich, complex characters and then allows us to become an intimate voyeur in the fabric of their thoughts and lives.

It is impossible to discuss each story in a collection so I will mention my favorites. "The Pilgrimage" paints a picture so strong, I lived the emotions of the woman as her fantasy abruptly vanished and she lived her humiliation. "Treatment" is about vulnerability, the facing of our own mortality. But though all the stories are superb, and everyone, for their own reasons, will have a favorite, mine is "Choosing Sides." Love is a choice; a conscious decision. And if that choice is a child-it's forever.

A Perfect Stranger and Other Stories is a book to be read, the words savored and then read again and again and again. Roxana Robinson is truly a gifted storyteller.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By newenglandreader on July 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Roxanna Robinson explores relationship conflicts, unexpected life tragedies with such clear vision, precise detail, you feel placed inside each story. She doesn't hide behind turgid language, but instead writes with economy. There is no ego in her voice, no self-important style. Her command of language feels confident, and her empathy for the plight of her characters is palpable and contagious.

The collection is book-ended with two brilliant stories. The first, Family Christmas, is told from the viewpoint of child who visits her wealthy WASP grandparents for Christmas. Ms. Robinson can slip right into a young girl's world and has a unique way of describing how a child sieves information. The world appears safe, ordered, protected, but then a minor incident occurs with the servants that jolts the atmosphere, inspires a small but important life epiphany--everything is not what it appears to be. It is a perfect story to start this collection because it portends a thread line of themes to come.

While Ms. Robinsons starts us off the collection inside the mind of a child who feels like a stranger, she leaves us with a story, A Perfect Stranger, about a older household guest who in fact is a stranger. He is a visiting speaker for a small town music festival, and is staying with the chairman of the lecture committee. The story offers charming insight into the world of New York country living-- the desperate need to fit in, do one's job well, appear appropriate. It centers around the anxiety that fills a household when a perfect stranger moves in as temporary guest. But soon an irony becomes quite apparent. Just who are the strangers? This man, or this couple?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M.J. Rose on May 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Robinson's newest short story collection is sublime. She has that rare ability to notice just the right telling nuance, deviation of tone, or perfect detail that bring her characters to life and to confict and to resolution in a mere handful of pages.
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