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Esther stories /

Main Author: Orner, Peter.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2001
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Review by Booklist Review

In this debut collection of impeccably crafted short stories, Orner examines the small moments that resonate throughout a lifetime. In the first half, many of the characters find themselves unexpectedly impacted by the deaths of those around them: a high school student is drawn to the remote location where a teacher was murdered; the removal of his deceased tenant's clothes prompts a landlord to examine the dissolution of his marriage; and the feud between two competing one-man shows about Edgar Allan Poe leads to the suicide of one of the actors. In the second half, Orner details the lives of two Jewish families. The Kaplans, from a middle-class Massachusetts's mill town, lead a quietly unremarkable life, and Orner perfectly captures the everyday heartbreaks and triumphs that comprise such a lifetime. The stories about the Burmans, a prosperous Chicago family, all lead inexorably to the title story, where a young man tries to piece together his enigmatic aunt's life and her descent into madness. Readers will enjoy discovering this talented and insightful writer. Brendan Dowling

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Innovative, original and fresh as a breath of perfumed summer air, these 34 stories capture pure emotion so vividly they tremble with contained life. Orner, who was published in The Best American Short Stories 2001 and has received a Pushcart Prize, creates characters so real that readers sense they could not only recognize them on the street, but also see into their troubled hearts. The tales collected here cover a lot of geographical ground - one group is set in Fall River, Mass., others in Chicago, while some veer away as far as Nova Scotia and Mississippi - but Orner teaches us that people everywhere share the same sorrows and joys. "Cousin Tuck's" is a heartbreaking tale of two misfits, Tito and Nadine, who find each other again. "[S]ome nights he'd take her home. Most guys gave him no grief - hell, a warm body's a warm body. In Boston in February, there's guys who sleep with frozen squirrel corpses." In "Atlantic City," a nurse comes home at lunch to find her husband dead and can remember him only on the beach in Atlantic City years before, in an almost unbearably bittersweet reverie. In the even shorter "Shoe Story," which is reminiscent of the late Richard Brautigan, a man recalls a overheard long ago, which ended with a woman throwing a pair of shoes out of the window into the street just by his restaurant table. "[T]hose shoes were angels dispatched to rescue ourselves from our own grease-soaked and burbling-over hearts." This extraordinarily fine collection should establish Orner as a new star of American short fiction. Author tour. (Nov. 2). (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

This affecting debut collection presents 34 stories, many no more than a page or two long, that span America. Though the physical territory covered is broad, the emotional probing of the characters is the high point here. The book is divided into four parts: the first two concern the lives of unrelated strangers; the last two present two assimilated Jewish families, one on the East Coast, the other in the Midwest. In the title story, the narrator tries to form a picture of his dead Aunt Esther with fragments of anecdotes: "I study an old high school picture of Esther and find it difficult to believe that the portly, angry, hollow-eyed woman who lived in my grandparents' basement throughout the 1980s is this person who looks so much like Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: seductive, sweaty, a little nasty, a little pouty." Recommended for most libraries. Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.