Thursday, April 21, 2011

Separate Kingdoms by Valierie Laken

Separate Kingdoms by Valerie Laken
224 pages
Published February 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours

The loss of a young boy's vision at birth, the loss of a woman's limb in a car accident, the loss of a father. In this collection of short stories, Valerie Laken explores loss on many levels, both physical and emotional, short-term and permanent. The stories are set in both the United States and Russia, populated with characters who are emotionally scarred but ultimately hopeful.

As with any collection of short stories, there were some stories here that I enjoyed more than others. There were even a couple where I was not sure what, exactly, Laken was trying to say. But I enjoyed her writing in all of the stories; they are unique, emotionally touching and thought provoking. Laken also does not sacrifice on description to fit the story into short form, as in this passage from "Spectators:"
"...he had always appreciated the tidy green isolation of golf courses, the way people's voices dropped naturally to church tones, as if there were something in their midst to worship. He liked the cocktails and groundskeepers and the old-fashioned shoes, and the way serious adults could abandon the jagged concerns of their lives to focus for a few quiet hours on the flight of a small dimpled ball."
My favorite story was "Family Planning," the story of a gay couple who has traveled to Russia to adopt a child. But when they arrive and are given their choice of two children, instead of only the little boy they were expecting to met, the women realize that their hopes for the future are very different.

When I was approached about reviewing this book, I read only as far as the description of the title story. In fact, I didn't even read far enough to realize that this was a collection of short stories. I'm not sure that would have made a difference in whether or not I read this; I generally prefer to be able to read collections of short stores over a long periods. Fortunately, I didn't pass on this one.

Thanks to TLC for including me on this tour!

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