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Pulitzer Prize finalist and multi-award-winning author Banks (Lost Memory of Skin) returns to writing in the short form, where he seems most at home. The characters inhabiting these 12 moody tales fall apart, their relationships go sour, and hope fades. One of the strongest stories introduces the collection. "Former Marine" tells about 70-year-old Conrad, a proud former marine, widower, and food stamp and Medicaid recipient, living in a trailer, who resorts to an extreme solution to manage his dwindling resources. Equally powerful is "Blue," a poignant tale about Ventana, a middle-age black woman who is locked inside a parked car lot and spends the night trapped on the roof of a vehicle in an attempt to save herself from the growling guard dog. "Transplant" depicts Howard Blume, who is recuperating from a heart transplant. He is visited by the wife of the man whose heart Howard has received. In the title piece, the narrator strongly declares he wants to set the record straight about what happened 35 years ago and what led him to harm a member of the family. VERDICT In this remarkably affecting collection, Banks introduces readers to a wide range of personalities and hardships and very few triumphs. An elegant and incisive writer, Banks continues to deliver stories full of surprise and contradictory elements. [See Prepub Alert, 5/20/13.]-Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Palisade, CO (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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While well-known for his impressive novelistic output, Banks (Continental Drift) is also a prolific short story writer. This collection, his sixth, is made up of four never-before-published stories. The first, "Former Marine," sets the exhausted, elegiac tone for the book. It features Connie, an aging ex-Marine who refers to himself as "the Retiree," even though he was laid off: "It's the economy's fault. And the fault of whoever the hell's in charge of it." Connie robs banks, badly, to make ends meet, but they (inevitably) don't. In the fine story "Transplant," Howard Blume is recovering from a heart transplant when the deceased donor's wife asks to meet him, to listen (with a stethoscope!) to Blume's new heart. In the most subversive story of the collection, "Snowbirds," a man dies of a heart attack in Florida, where he and his wife are spending the winter. Isabel, his widow, is nonplussed; in fact, she appears somewhat delighted at the prospect of a new life in the sun. While these exquisitely crafted stories are highly personal, they are also permeated by a sense of sadness about the death of the American dream, as the country struggles, out of work and seemingly out of hope. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
After his darkly magnificent and compassionate novel, Lost Memory of Skin (2011), a Carnegie Medal finalist, Banks brings out his first story collection since The Angel on the Roof (2000). In a dozen woodcut tales firmly incised, deeply grained Banks distills the lives of people of unfailing grit enduring reduced or radically altered circumstances. Former Marine portrays a tough 70-year-old who has figured out a way to stay solvent that is guaranteed to freak out his three sons, each in law enforcement. Banks measures the geometry of family in the title story, a look back at a divorce and the fate of a beloved dog. The harsh grandeur of the Adirondacks provides the template for many of these flinty, funny, devastating stories. But Banks also takes us to molten Miami in masterfully intensifying tales. In Snow Birds, a new widow embraces scandalous liberation, while in the wrenching Blue, a thrifty and determined 47-year-old grandmother finds herself trapped in a ludicrous earthly hell, condemned by the dangerous conflation of life and television, dream and reality. A resounding collection by an essential American writer. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Every book by Banks is a must-read and consequently receives headliner publicity and A-list media attention.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist