Monday, March 18, 2013

Appearances and Other Stories - Margo Krasne

Summary:  In this debut collection, Krasne wields insightful irony and cathartic black humor to illuminate her themes of loss, yearning and survival, bringing to it a biting female perspective.

An adept stylist with an ear for dialogue and an eye for personal foibles, Krasne cleverly captures the distinct voices of her characters as they strive to negotiate the subtle and not-so-subtle minefields of family obligation and personal conflict.  She has a knack for getting inside her characters' heads as they strive to keep up appearances.  Readers will most surely recognize themselves, their friends and family members in all of these beautifully rendered stories.  (Summary from back of the book, image from, and book given free for review.)

My Review:  When I first started reading this book it gave me a feel of what my college readings were like--vague, a bit confusing at times, but challenging, which in turn is exciting.  Sadly, as the book went on, that kind of faded away.  The first story, the longest of the four, started strong.  The ending lacked clarity, as the point of view started shifting.  It flipped between first and third person, creating in the reader confusion as to what you really should know and who's really telling the story.  It confused the message.  The daughter suffers in ways that seem clear and then more description would be given and the true conflict would seem muddled again.  I really did want to like this story.  It just fell short of the mark.

My favorite story in the book was the second, called At the Algonquin.  Despite the loss of her first true-love relationship to death--death being a common thread throughout all four stories--Janet had managed to move on.  She's still grappling with the pieces of her past that haunt her, but she's not the completely tortured and at a loss for understanding that the other characters in the rest of the stories are.  She also finds some resolution for which the other protagonists only manage to reach.

The common themes throughout the book are death, sex, conflict in relationships, obligation, and loss.  The summary on the back attributes irony and cathartic black humor to the stories--this I didn't particularly appreciate or agree with. To say this was a quick and easy read would be a lie.  I pushed myself to finish.  It's not a happy read.  All that to say, I did finish, and I'm glad for the resolution of knowing how Krasne resolved the stories.  I would not recommend this to everyone, especially those that value sex as a sacred and very personal experience--it is dealt with very casually in its importance and how it affects people, most especially women; and this probably affected me the most negatively.

For the sensitive reader:  The book is pretty tame until about 1/3 through.  Then the four-letter words take off and continue through the end of the book. A scene where sex is implied--not described much beyond that it happened, although sex is a large topic--and anything related to that is implied--for the last half of the book.

Rating:  3 stars

Sum it up:  A mash of four unrelated stories with a single thread of conflict.  Overall, meh.

1 comment:

Teddy Rose said...

Thanks for taking part in the tour.


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