ESTHER STORIES

Peter Orner, Author . Houghton Mifflin/Mariner $13 (224p) ISBN 978-0-618-12873-0

Innovative, original and fresh as a breath of perfumed summer air, these 34 stories capture pure emotion so vividly they tremble with contained life. Orner, who was published in The Best American Short Stories 2001 and has received a Pushcart Prize, creates characters so real that readers sense they could not only recognize them on the street, but also see into their troubled hearts. The tales collected here cover a lot of geographical ground—one group is set in Fall River, Mass., others in Chicago, while some veer away as far as Nova Scotia and Mississippi—but Orner teaches us that people everywhere share the same sorrows and joys. "Cousin Tuck's" is a heartbreaking tale of two misfits, Tito and Nadine, who find each other, lose each other and, we truly hope, get together again. "[S]ome nights he'd take her home. Most guys gave him no grief—hell, a warm body's a warm body. In Boston in February, there's guys who sleep with frozen squirrel corpses." In "Atlantic City," a nurse comes home at lunch to find her husband dead and can remember him only on the beach in Atlantic City years before, in an almost unbearably bittersweet reverie. In the even shorter "Shoe Story," which is reminiscent of the late Richard Brautigan, a man recalls a conversation overheard long ago, which ended with a woman throwing a pair of shoes out of the window into the street just by his restaurant table. "[T]hose shoes were angels dispatched to rescue ourselves from our own grease-soaked and burbling-over hearts." This extraordinarily fine collection should establish Orner as a new star of American short fiction. Author tour.(Nov. 2)

Forecast:Blurbs from Marilynne Robinson, Charles Baxter and Andre Dubus suggest the caliber of these tales and should capture the attention of browsers, as should the haunting black and white jacket photograph of a woman on a front stoop.

Reviewed on: 09/24/2001
Release date: 11/01/2001
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FORMATS
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-1693-7
Paperback - 229 pages - 978-0-316-22468-0
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-316-22469-7
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