From Publishers Weekly
Series editor Furman (Drinking with the Cook
) casts a wide net in the latest installment of the long running award collection, aided by "jurors" Kevin Brockmeier, Francine Prose and Colm Tóibín, whose functions remain impressively unclear. Most of the prize stories turn on romance: in Alice Munro's "Passion" (already published in her collection Runaway)
, a Canadian waitress falls for her fiancé's alcoholic brother when he mends her cut foot at a Thanksgiving family dinner. Behind the noir gravities of "Sault Ste. Marie," by the American David Means loom the long shadows of The Postman Always Rings Twice
; in Xu Xi's "Famine," a middle-aged school teacher from Hong Kong attempts to rid herself of her aged parents' thrift through a blowout at the Plaza. Others stories turn surreal. David Lawrence Means takes us to Ceta, a society that lives on the back of a great whale (in "Conceived"), while in Stephanie Reents's "Disquisition on Tears," a recluse is visited by an intrusive, hectoring woman without a head. The best story in the book might be Pulitzer Prize–winner Edward P. Jones's "Old Boys, Old Girls," in which a battered antihero feels the powerful lure of innocence as he meets family members born during his incarceration for murder in a powerful, moving encounter. (May 9)
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The 20 short stories in this marvelous collection were chosen by series editor Furman in consultation with jurors Kevin Brockmeier, Francine Prose, and Colm Toibin. The stories range in style from the gritty noir of David Means' "Sault Ste. Marie" to the mesmerizing mythmaking of Louise Erdrich's "The Plague of Doves," while the settings include a village perched on top of an enormous whale (David Lawrence Morse's "Conceived") as well as a swank suite at the Plaza Hotel (Xu Xi's "Famine"). The three most powerful stories seem to have in common the ability to immerse readers in a character's sudden, searing moment of self-knowledge and the way that insight impacts the course of a life. In Edward P. Jones' elegiac, masterful "Old Boys, Old Girls," a hard-bitten con comes to see that redemption is within his reach. Deborah Eisenberg delicately deconstructs a young girl's attraction to an abusive man in the haunting "Windows." And, finally, the storied Alice Munro, in "Passion," conveys the complex inner world of a teenager who discovers she values risk over security. Outstanding reading. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved