Review by New York Times Review
THE OVERSTORY, by Richard Powers. (Norton, $27.95.) The science of botany and the art of storytelling merge to ingenious effect in Powers's magisterial new novel - a story in which people are merely the underbrush and the real protagonists are the trees that the human characters encounter. STRAY CITY, by Chelsey Johnson. (Custom House, $25.99.) Among the delights of this engrossing debut novel, about a single young lesbian mother, is how clearly Johnson delineates the psychosexual dualities and prejudices of our culture - how effortlessly she instructs even as she entertains. THINKING WITHOUT A BANISTER: Essays in Understanding, 1953-1975, by Hannah Arendt. Edited by Jerome Kohn. (Schocken, $40.) Arendt's urbane and unceremonious style is in full display in these essays from the last two decades of her life. Many of the pieces deal with political events and intellectual issues of the time, but they retain a striking relevance in the Age of Trump. THE SANDMAN, by Lars Kepler. Translated by Neil Smith. (Knopf, $27.95.) In this Nordic noir thriller, with resonant echoes of "The Silence of the Lambs," two Swedish cops can only crack their case by befriending an imprisoned serial killer. TO CHANGE THE CHURCH: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism, by Ross Douthat. (Simon & Schuster, $26.) This book, together with two of Douthat's previous books, is one part of a loose triptych about institutions in decline. Here, Douthat, a convert to Catholicism as well as a columnist for The New York Times, focuses on what he sees as a crisis of the church, brought on by the accommodationist policies of Pope Francis. CLOUDBURSTS: Collected and New Stories, by Thomas McGuane. (Knopf, $34.95.) People living on the fringes - loners and schemers - populate these brilliant and compulsively readable short stories. You may find yourself tearing through the book like a flash flood washing out a dirt road. THE GHOST NOTEBOOKS, by Ben Dolnick. (Pantheon, $25.95.) Dolnick doesn't employ screaming demons or blood-dripping walls in this well-crafted thriller about newlyweds who have moved into a decidedly creepy farmhouse. His brand of haunting is much more subtle - and much scarier. HIGH-RISERS: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing, by Ben Austen. (Harper/HarperCollins, $27.99.) This history of a notorious low-income development in Chicago shows how public housing became a symbol for policy gone awry. BE PREPARED, by Vera Brosgol. (First Second, $16.99; ages 8 to 12.) In this winning graphic novel based on the author-illustrator's childhood, 8-year-old Vera, a Russian immigrant, longs to go to sleepaway camp like her American friends. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web: nytimes.com/books
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [August 30, 2019]
Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* To read straight through a career-spanning collection of short stories is to see the writer's obsessions laid bare through recurring themes. And if McGuane's earlier works reveal a predilection for hunting, dogs, and eccentrics, those stories remain relatable to those who've never pulled a trigger or watched a dog quivering on point. (The opener, Sportsmen, about two young duck hunters, remains one of his finest, and Flight, about two men's final hunt together, is equally if oppositely powerful.) The eccentrics continue to appear throughout his career, though they begin to look more and more like us: McGuane has a way of revealing mundane experience through extraordinary circumstance and can provoke powerful emotion in readers despite the frequent flatness of his prose. Cowboy, which first appeared in the New Yorker in 2005, is still a stunner. It should also be said that he's damn funny: regardless of its bullet-in -the-head ending, just try to read 2014's Motherlode without laughing again and again at the trio of would-be meth dealers. As his frequent appearances in Best American Short Stories attest, McGuane is a master, choosing his words with a lapidary's precision and setting them in sentences that burn brightly, finishing his stories with epiphanies to treasure. Libraries containing To Skin a Cat (1986), Gallatin Canyon (2006), and Crow Fair (2015), his three previous collections, will already possess the majority of these stories. But there are four new works here, as well as four previously uncollected gems, and fans of the form should devour this opus from one of our finest living short-story writers.--Graff, Keir Copyright 2018 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
This outstanding career-capping volume combines McGuane's three published story collections (To Skin a Cat, Gallatin Canyon, and Crow Fair) with eight new stories, together demonstrating how the Montana author's portraits of people (mainly men) who fail to connect to or comprehend other people (mainly women) have grown darker, funnier, and more complex over time. In an early story, "The Road Atlas," a couple's relationship falters as they plan a road trip. In the more recent "Little Bighorn," a splintering couple plans to join another splintering couple for a visit to the site of Custer's Last Stand. Parental distraction leads to confusion in "Miracle Boy" and tragedy in "The Driver." Like their predecessors, protagonists in later stories entrap themselves by making poor choices. The runaway parolee of "Kangaroo" heads home, his probation officer and a trigger-happy sniper close behind. Errol Headley of "The Refugee" sets sail again in "Papaya," only to be washed ashore and put to work shoveling bat guano. In pursuit of lost causes, an aging California hippie refurbishes a rotting boat ("Viking Burial"); adult siblings recall their parents' divorce ("Ghost Riders in the Sky"); and a premed student attends dance class ("Tango"). The last story, "Riddle," in which a man becomes utterly perplexed after witnessing a joyous moment, exemplifies McGuane's casual, conversational style and well-honed craftsmanship. Brief, stormy, and refreshing, McGuane's stories erupt like the namesake of this marvelous collection. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A career-spanning collection of short stories from McGuane, who's observed America's outskirts with equal measures of pathos and humor.This gathers McGuane's three previous books of stories (To Skin a Cat, 1986; Gallatin Canyon, 2006; Crow Fair, 2015) and adds eight uncollected tales, cementing his reputation as a keen writer on underexplored territories, especially Big Sky Country, rural Northern California, and Key West. Putting all these stories in one place also spotlights the evolution of his prose over time. In his early stories, he could pull off a Cheever-esque domestic drama like "The Millionaire," about a family secreting away their pregnant teenage daughter at a summer home, but more often delivered strained yarns constructed around easy symbolic conflicts, like "A Skirmish," a tale of childhood bullying involving Civil War caps, or the travails of overly flirty men, as in "Partners" or "Like a Leaf." The newer stories, by contrast, are at once sturdier and more sensitive, especially "Kangaroo," about a recidivist parolee gathering his late mother's ashes and the parole officer chasing him down, or "The Driver," about a child who's an unwitting victim of his mother's neglect. But grown-up relationships, both romantic and platonic, are his consistent focus: the epic Gallatin Canyon story "The Refugee" features a man sailing to Key West to expunge his brain of a lost love and a dead friend; a new story, "Papaya," describes an abusive relationship he was in. Like McGuane's contemporaries Jim Harrison and Richard Ford, masculinity is much on his mind, but he's not much for machismo: the narrator of "Little Bighorn" recalls a busted relationship as a young man with self-deprecating humor, while in "Tango," a doctor remembers his early struggle to connect with a woman and the tragic consequences of their failure to communicate.A stellar writer on the outdoors who's gotten better at describing interior wildernesses over time. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.