From Publishers Weekly
The narrator of "The Anomalist" one of the 10 stories gathered in Brenner's quirkily deadpan second collection (after Large Animals in Everyday Life) explains that he has remained in Florida because he once saw a zoo plaque that promised buffalo sightings "if you're at the right place at the right time." Unfortunately, he never seems to be where he's meant to be, and he has little left save the hope that great, galumphing beasts will lumber through the foreground of his life, changing him irrevocably. Like the short-circuited phone system in "Awareness," which unwittingly places calls to itself, Brenner's characters are protectively self-sufficient; like the operators who answer these phantom calls, they repeatedly experience the disappointment of an empty dial tone. Immunized against sentimentality by great doses of reason, characters have lover's quarrels that are "showdown[s] about beauty." Intellectual effort keeps Brenner's protagonists from falling apart entirely, but again and again they are undone by small gestures (a child's grasp, a sticky kiss) emotional depth charges that cannot be denied. The stories end with tiny, unexpected epiphanies: a girl lamenting the false promise of Snoopy, a man waiting for his dead son to pick up the phone, a man rocked in the arms of a golden-hearted hooker. Brenner's witty, empathetic voice animates a tawdry, urban Florida filled with the lost and the lonely, stale lives refreshed briefly by fleeting moments of passion. (Sept.)Forecast: Brenner, a contributing writer for the Oxford American, won the Flannery O'Connor Award for her first collection. Readers familiar with her work will snap up Phone Calls from the Dead, and strong reviews and an author tour should broaden her reach.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In her second collection, Brenner, whose Large Animals in Everyday Life won the Flannery O'Connor Award, showcases her ability to conjure up bizarre situations and circumstances in the lives of ordinary people. A scientist learns to enjoy human relationships while compiling an encyclopedia of anomalies, while a high school student grosses out friends with her uncle's nipple, which she claims to have in an envelope. A father who mourns his son believes it's possible to communicate with him via tape recorder; four squirrels, tied together for a long time, are separated by a vet so they can live separately; and a very perceptive boy has a relationship with an unborn friend. Brenner is a gifted chronicler of these often poor and downtrodden characters, whose lives are marked by the oddity of the everyday world around them.Ellen R. Cohen, Rockville, MD
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.