The Empty Family

The Empty Family: Stories. Scribner. Jan. 2011. c.288p. ISBN 9781439138328. $24. F
This work conveys a remarkable cohesion for a collection of previously published stories. Each tale focuses on people who reckon transformative events from their pasts, or rather, are transformed by remembering. Tóibín's characteristically lyrical prose seems even more elegantly economical in this volume; this spareness enhances the beauty, sometimes aching, that emerges from observations and dialog. In "The Street," for example, Tóibín's tender rendering of the thoughts and routines of a wounded Pakistani man convalescing in a dim, dark garret in Barcelona transmits both the isolation and longing that run through each story like distant birdsong, palpable yet barely perceived.
VERDICT In this triumphant follow-up to his award-winning novel Brooklyn, Tóibín exhibits his familiar stylistic simplicity while extending his emotional reach and range in surprising ways. There's a mastery of romantic eroticism that calls to mind Camus's lush lyricism in "Return to Tipasa" and Exile and the Kingdom, as well as the seductive strangeness of Katherine Ann Porter's best-known short stories. For all readers of fiction. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/10.]
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