From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A bold new collection by relentlessly surprising Scottish author Kennedy (Day
) finds her characters pinned somewhere between love and pain. In the title story, about a lone man's evening attending a smalltown cinema, the denouement comes very gradually, as it does frequently throughout, reflecting a kind of reluctant dawning of consciousness: the protagonist, a forensics expert traumatized by having seen so much carnage, has left his wife after the death of their young daughter, an event that has rendered them unable to stand the guilt and anger evoked by the other's presence. Wasps captures a young wife and mother as she is making a Sunday breakfast. This seemingly typical scene is frozen by the menace of the philandering husband's leaving for good and his icy treatment of his angry wife. Saturday Teatime depicts the panicked delayed memory shock experienced by a child listening to her father's abuse of her mother, while Marriage portrays the excruciating emotional and physical aftermath of a violent sexual encounter between a husband and wife. These stories are polished to perfection, full of very dark turns and exemplary of Kennedy's inventiveness. (Apr.)
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The Motown classic asked “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?” Kennedy gives the bleak answers to that question in 12 devastating stories. Bankruptcy, the loss of a child, and spousal abuse are just some of the traumas with which these characters try, and frequently fail, to cope. In the daring “Sympathy,” a couple indulges in a sexually raw one-night stand, which only succeeds in crystallizing their loneliness. In “Whole Family with Young Children Devastated,” the sight of a missing-dog poster sends the female narrator into a state of rank desperation in which she longs to know the outcome and to see it posted: “Found. Exactly what we hoped for. Thanks to everyone for your concern. No problems anywhere.” Kennedy is unsparing in her depiction of the difficulties of communication, which are only superseded by the claustrophobia of being trapped in one’s own neurotic thoughts. Loneliness and depression are described in agonizing detail as the characters struggle to lift themselves out of despair through vitriolic rants and moments of fleeting intimacy. These are stories that are hard to read and even harder to forget. --Joanne Wilkinson