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Orner (Esther Stories; Love and Shame and Love) once again shows himself to be a master of compression. These stories, as short as a page and no more than four or five pages at most, form a constellation of key moments in the lives of an extended family of secular Jews with retail establishments and a penchant for local (i.e., Chicago) politics. One of the book's four sections takes its title from Chekhov's play, Three Sisters: "In Moscow Everything Will Be Different." Just as Chekhov's titular sisters never stop talking about Moscow but likewise never get there, Orner's characters have their own personal "Moscows"-the events in their lives that they cannot get past, that they must continuously relive and retell, like the father who rescues his daughter in a hurricane or the man who may or may not have witnessed a fire at the Coconut Grove Hotel. VERDICT Collectively, these events take on a mythic aspect that makes them linger and coalesce in the reader's mind. Perhaps by virtue of their length, Orner's stories force the reader to pay attention to those telling details, to unravel the sentences for all they are worth, and they are worth a lot.-Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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In his second story collection, Orner (Love and Shame and Love) fires jewel-toned shards of fiction into a stunning whole. These tales, many of which are as short as a paragraph, jump back and forth between Fall River, Mass.; Chicago; Russia; the Czech Republic; South Dakota; and other places, as well as skipping across decades. Though most stand alone, several feature the relatives of Horace and Josephine Ginsburg, a family's "famous once-hads," whose failed Ponzi scheme ruined their relatives and the whole town. Divided into four parts-"Survivors," "The Normal," "In Moscow Everything Will Be Different," and "Country of Us"-the collection explores the heartache of the past; many stories feature men trying to make sense of the confusing adult world they inhabited as children. Perhaps the most tangible example is the title story, in which Horace's brother-in-law Walt Kaplan-a daydreaming furniture salesman in 1947-ruminates on the time in 1938 when he made it over the Cape Cod Canal just ahead of a hurricane. Impermanence and longing pervade the collection. In "Fourteen-Year-Olds, Indiana Dunes, Late Afternoon," one character "rises and stands in the shallow water and faces the beach as the waves break upon the shore, only to fall back toward her," just as Orner returns over and over to these crystallized moments. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Orner is an undisputed master of the short short story (his first collection, Esther Stories, 2001, has just been reissued), a form that even shapes his novels (Love and Shame and Love, 2011). The 51 distilled tales in this fizzing, chilling, and incisive collection are rich in emotional intricacy, drama, and devilish humor. Also in high evidence is Orner's fascination with fractious marriages and families under pressure especially in beautifully rendered stories set in his native Illinois and his gift for a touch of evil. A wife stands by her Bernie Madoffish husband. A man compulsively returns to a restaurant where a murder was committed. A father barely escapes a hurricane with his daughter. A woman recounts her lover's disappearance and macabre reappearance. A woman in Mexico City misses her sister, who is out of reach in Ohio. With an eye to history and the mythic nature of public figures, Orner imagines Isaac Babel's last moments and the struggles of Russian immigrants, the Kennedys, and Chicago mayors. This is a book of alchemical concentration, microcosmic resonance, arresting surprises, and stubborn tenderness.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist