From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Well-known in his native Australia and twice shortlisted for the Man Booker, Winton (Dirt Music
, etc.) is overdue for wider recognition in the U.S. This collection of linked stories showcases his strengths: memorable characters colliding with the moments that define them—for better or worse—and clean, evocative prose that captures the often stultifying life in smalltown Western Australia. In the title story, Raelene, a young wife and mother living in a trailer park with her abusive husband, Max, becomes fascinated with her happy new neighbors; the seemingly perfect couple's influence sets Raelene on a muddled path toward self-examination, resulting in a transformation shocking for both its brutality and naïveté. "Sand" reveals Max's cruelty as a young boy—he tries to bury his younger brother alive—while "Family" shows the two brothers meeting again as adults, with the balance of power between them shifting dramatically. Another character, Vic, is central to the book: he appears as an awkward adolescent fixated on unattainable older girls, as a young man coping with the legacy of his father's alcoholism and abandonment, and as a middle-aged man unable to come to terms with his past. Winton reveals a wide but finely turned swath of simmering inner lives; the sweetness of these stories, as well as their sharp bite, feels earned and real. (Sept.)
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The currents and themes sinuously winding through Winton's spellbinding collection of short stories are almost too numerous to mention. Despair, longing, abandonment, abuse, violence, tenderness: they cover the gamut of human emotions and conditions, but do so in such a subtle, masterful way so as not to burden the reader with sensory overload. It's enough just to go along for the ride as Winton revists a favored locale, a blighted fishing village along Australia's western coast, following a band of characters as their compelling stories connect and overlap, quixotically veering off on dizzying tangents in one story, only to solidly converge later on to reveal pivotal points from their pasts or resolve enigmatic issues in the future. Withal, Winton creates a sense of place so profound one can almost smell the oily fumes from marine slaughterhouses. More than isolated vignettes, Winton's stories are of a whole, seamless, sensuous, and utterly captivating. Carol HaggasCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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