A poignant and often riveting collection of small-town tales.

LOUSE POINT

STORIES FROM THE EAST END: 2ND EDITION

A short story collection that delves into the intricacies of love, family, marriage, and community in the East End of Long Island, New York.

Raebeck begins with “Dream Girls,” about a family coping with grief. Fourteen-year-old Ricky’s mother has died, but he still sees her as an apparition in the bathroom; he talks to her about his life and how he and the family are getting on in the aftermath of her death. In “Walking Dunes,” Darlene’s husband leaves her, and she chases after him, dragging her daughter and son along with her. Later in the collection, “Wiborg” shows how a woman’s close relationship to the land has caused a rift in her family. There’s an ongoing theme of loss and division in these tales—of people yearning for each other but unable to bridge the gap caused by their circumstances. This is especially apparent in the titular story, in which an adult Ricky describes how his sister, a single mother who just left a terrible relationship, begins to follow a similar pattern with Ricky’s 29-year-old stockbroker friend Babiak. In another story involving a troubled marriage, “Fremont’s Farewell” tells the tale of a teacher who tries to teach his students about what he feels are life’s most important lessons but instead reveals his own personal history. He describes spending the day with his son in a touching scene that’s effectively juxtaposed with his generally cynical point of view. Raebeck also has a talent for showing how characters play different roles in others’ lives, such as parents, siblings, and childhood friends. “Camp Hero” is about a teen named Lance who tries to push Ricky onto his family to fill the void he’s about to leave in their lives as he heads off to college. The story generates heartfelt sympathy for Lance, who wants to protect and provide for his loved ones but needs to go his own way, and Ricky, who’s kind but has his own problems.

A poignant and often riveting collection of small-town tales.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-66291-782-0

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Gatekeeper Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

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THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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