And Other Stories
. 978-0-30726-891-4. Fiction
A skilled storyteller and author of the well-received Atlas of Unknowns, James investigates with compassion and humor the indignities of aging, disability, and alienation at various stages of life. With a varied cast of insecure, shameful, sometimes obsessed characters, James takes the reader from 1910 London to present-day Sierra Leone, Kentucky, and the Midwest yet keeps her focus firmly on commonalities rather than how people are different. In the heartbreaking "What To Do with Henry," James brings together an orphaned chimpanzee, a retired teacher from Ohio, and a child from Sierra Leone fathered by her husband to form a family of sorts from their individual losses. "Ethnic Ken" is an excruciating story about a preteen who is "too old for dolls" yet is fixated on getting a Ken to go with her Barbie and mortified by her odd but kindly grandfather. The title story is set in a retirement community that has been thoroughly rejected by a newcomer, Mr. Panicker, until he is befriended by an occasionally demented woman and considers his limited alternatives.
VERDICT This is a satisfying collection for lovers of short fiction from a refreshingly authentic new voice. [See Prepub Alert, 11/14/11.]
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