Read Separate Kingdoms: Stories by Valerie Laken Online

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“A work of daunting versatility and technical skill, the product of a writer absolutely at home in the language and working vigorously within both new and old forms.” —Michael Byers, author of Long for this World and The Coast of Good Intentions From Pushcart Prize-winner Valerie Laken, author of Dream House, comes a riveting short story collection charting the divisions a“A work of daunting versatility and technical skill, the product of a writer absolutely at home in the language and working vigorously within both new and old forms.” —Michael Byers, author of Long for this World and The Coast of Good Intentions From Pushcart Prize-winner Valerie Laken, author of Dream House, comes a riveting short story collection charting the divisions and collisions between cultures and nations, families and lovers, selves and others in the United States and Russia. In the tradition of Lydia Peelle, Barbara Johnson, and David Mitchell, Laken creates incisive and illuminating portraits of characters coping with loss, estrangement, and disability, confined by their circumstances to separate kingdoms of the heart....

Title : Separate Kingdoms: Stories
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780060840945
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 224 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Separate Kingdoms: Stories Reviews

  • Audra (Unabridged Chick)
    2019-06-21 05:07

    These eight short stories pack a punch. These are dark, moody pieces: not emo moody or overwrought angst, but a steady, grim reality without forced optimism or cheer. But in a good way, a great way: the writing is exceptional, the storytelling vibrant, and the characters are maddeningly real.Laken's gift as a storyteller is that you still want to read, despite the painful awkwardness or the grim uneasiness the characters face. In 'Family Planning' a lesbian couple is in Russia to adopt a baby when they learn they can chose between two children. This story had me literally wiggling with discomfort: the characters made me uncomfortable because I know people like them and this very simple set up was just heavy with implication and inevitability and promises of painful disappointment. It was discomforting because it felt so real.The tone of the stories just isn't for me -- but it's absolutely my tastes and not any knock against Laken. However, two absolutely grabbed me -- again, for the fantastic writing and great characterization: 'Map of the City', which has a very autobiographical feel, featuring a young American woman from the Midwest living in Russia in the early '90s; and the titular story, a side by side account of an evening from the viewpoints of an injured father and his teenaged son.My wife, who loves Shirley Jackson, Aimee Bender, and Herman Melville, Danish films, and New England winters, adored this collection. I had passed the book to her just to read a single story and didn't get it back until she had finished the entire thing. I think this would be a great selection for book groups -- these stories invite conversation about relationships and the choices one would make -- and anyone who enjoys fiction that is a little more raw but still well-written.

  • Candiss
    2019-07-06 11:17

    (I won a copy of Valerie Laken's Separate Kingdoms: Stories through the Goodreads First Reads program.)If I had to boil my overall reaction down to but one word, the word I would choose would certainly be "poignant." The stories in this collection are in equal parts beautiful and tragic, a bittersweet blend of evocative, well-worded prose and haunting scenarios. These are not happy stories. They are not uplifting, and they did not make me feel good. But they certainly did make me feel, and they did so in a wholly authentic and un-gimmicky way.Valerie Laken has painted a series of portraits - of individuals on the verge, running towards, fleeing from, longing for, hiding from, adjusting to, coming to terms with, avoiding, facing...Something. In each vignette, I watched - often uncomfortably - as characters wrestled with their demons, their insecurities, their realities, themselves. There was a feeling of having stepped into the private mindscapes of these characters, a sense of catching them naked, unshielded, and I could not help but experience a sort of anxiety.The author has a real talent for eliciting feelings of unease and discomfort, of drawing you into the inner turmoils of her characters. She has her finger firmly on the pulse of the human condition, and she has the skill to choose just the right words to make her psychological panoplies feel real and believable. It might not have been fun, but it was definitely impressive and a reading experience I will not soon forget.

  • Jennifer
    2019-07-08 12:26

    A positively brilliant collection of short stories. Myfull review may be read on my book review blogRundpinne.

  • Timothy Bazzett
    2019-07-15 05:16

    Short story collections are the poorer cousins of novels in the fiction world. Publishers are very leery of them unless the author has already somehow proven himself as a saleable commodity, preferrably with a successful novel. And I must admit that I don't read many short stories myself. I heard of SEPARATE KINGDOMS from a writer friend, Don Lystra, who authored a much acclaimed first novel, SEASON OF WATER AND ICE. Now Don is looking for a publisher for (you guessed it) a group of short stories. I hope he finds one, because I'm eagerly looking forward to reading more of his fiction in whatever form.I am extremely impressed with Laken's collection. Because she is obviously a writer who knows what she's about, and writes about what she knows. The thing that sets this book apart from other story collections is its use of alternate settings. Three of the eight stories here are set in the former USSR, in Moscow and its outlying suburbs and villages. Laken lived in the area back in the early 90s and has apparently made subsequent visits since then. Hence the title of the collection perhaps - the US and the USSR as 'separate kingdoms.' But there are other possibilities too, and they are easy to find in each of the stories. The first one, for example, "Before Long," contrasts the world of the sighted with the blind, represented by Anton, a Russian boy who is nearing puberty, with all its normal awkwardness emphasized even more by his handicap. Childhood, adolescence and the adult world are all separate kingdoms too, of course - layers of interpretations here, I suppose, if you wanna do that kinda thing. Me, I was mostly caught up in the stories and their characters. They're all that good - and real - with dead-on perfect and believable dialogue, with occasional Russian words and expressions thrown in to add a little authenticity."Spectators" is one of the US stories, set in Illinois, about the often unexplored world of amputees, another 'kingdom' often ignored by 'normal' people. And Another story, "Scavengers," looks at the odd dilemma posed by the collapse of the banking and financial community recently, which poignantly juxtaposes the plight of the homeless with whole neighborhoods of empty foreclosed houses - the haves and the have-nots, with the emphasis on the latter."The God of Fire" looks at the familial chasm (a ruptured relationship) between an adult daughter and her distant, difficult father, who is clinging to life in a hospital ICU, having suffered a ruptured aortic aneurism.And in the title story, which might have been subtitled, "Look, Ma - No Thumbs," Laken subtly examines the perhaps not so significant distinction between man and the animal kingdom. This story is presented in a unique columnar format with two sides of the same story (a father and son) being told side-by-side, which presents the reader with the choice of either reading the stories piecemeal, the way one might concurrently read a couple of different news articles on the same page, or simply read one column all the way through and then go back and read the second one. In any case, it works whichever way you choose. And as a dog lover, I was especially pleased with Laken's descriptions of the two family dogs - small stuff, I know, but representative of the kind of detail that makes these stories come alive. For me, however, the showcase piece of this stellar collection is "Map of the City," which is, I suspect, largely autobiographical. The unnamed narrator (at least I don't think she is ever named), an exchange student from a US state college who is caught up in the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, is utterly believable in her uncertainties and doubts, and particularly in her daily struggles with the intricacies of the Russian tongue and the difficulties and loneliness this dilemma brings with it. The dialogue in this particular story is understandably spare and minimal, reflecting the language barrier and the tortured syntax that often results. The American student and her Russian friends are perfect representatives of the 'separate kingdoms' of the book's title. As someone who worked with and studied the Russian language for over twenty-five years, I can attest to its difficulties. Fluency in such a language is hard-won, if indeed it is ever achieved. Perhaps this is why I like these stories so much. Because Laken dared to write of a foreign, alien culture - the former USSR as a 'separate kingdom.' And yet she does it in the humblest most honest terms, acknowledging how little she really knows - indeed how little any of us can know - about the realities of life in a suddenly broken country. There are only intimations here of how quickly the Soviet union fractured and how old ethnic rivalries and hatreds of all the now separate republics suddenly flared again into wars and uprisings, separate kingdoms forming and reforming.But every one of these eight stories, in both settings, is carefully crafted and faultlessly executed. Perhaps there is yet hope for the survival of the art of the short story. This is a fascinating and simply terrific book. My, how I ramble on. Good stuff, Ms. Laken. Enough said.

  • Jenny O.
    2019-07-01 05:09

    Pushcart-Prize winning Valerie Laken has written a short story collection that explores the different territories we inhabit: geographical, cultural, intellectual, emotional, and otherwise. Set in either Russia or the United States, many of the characters of these stories are on the fringes of society, onlookers rather than participants. Others are cut off from family, friends, even themselves, through differences in circumstance or their own intentional will.Spectators—The Sixth Annual Midwest Regional Amputee Golf Tournament-- a group of men and women play golf and commiserate over their lost limbs and their refusal to sink into grief over what they are missing. While Arnie listens to their stories, and laughs at all the appropriate moments, his mind lies elsewhere, with his wife, Marion. A participant in the tournament, the aloof Marion is put off and disturbed by the plethora of inspirational stories and teary gratefulness of the other golfers. Her experience is a much more private affair, one that she refuses to even share with Arnie. The divide between the two strangles any hope of communication, until Arnie finds out just what Marion is hiding from him. In Family Planning, a lesbian couple travels to Moscow to adopt a young boy. From the outset, Meg and Josie are at odds. Meg is wary of the legal procedures and the mounting costs, while Josie dwells in the possibility of finally being a family. Though they are expecting to see the child whose picture was mailed to them, the agency tells them an infant girl is also available. Horrified to have to make a choice and all that making that choice implies, Josie also sees a side of Meg that she’d never known existed. In God of Fire, an adult woman grapples with her father’s illness and the difference between the “fierce, invincible giant” he was during her childhood and the shrunken man he is today. Between her mother’s denial of her father’s impending death, the constant traffic of bodies moving in and out of the hospital, and Ellie’s faulty memory of her own transgressions, Ellie struggles to see her father wholly, and not just through the eyes of a daughter who has always felt the critically, unwavering stare of a father she feared rather than loved. In Separate Kingdoms, an industrial accident lies at the heart of the story. Colt, who has lost his thumbs, disengages from his son and wife amidst a legal battle between himself and his employer. Laken writes this story in two columns, side by side, told from the viewpoint of both the father and the son. To tune out his embittered, angry father, Jack withdraws into his room and plays the drums. Colt immerses himself in Animal Planet episodes and fixates on the things he’s unable to do now: drink a beer, pull up his zipper, and hold a utensil. After years of working the night shift, of being the primary breadwinner, he feels beaten and emasculated. There are more stories in Laken’s collection-- stories of overcoming isolation and self-inflicted exile, stories of being in the middle of a cultural revolution, stories of missing out on parts of life, stories of the human experience, all exquisitely rendered, and disquietingly lovely.

  • Jill
    2019-07-17 05:10

    He turned his head from side to side, trying to shake the idea away. “What on earth is the matter with you? With us?”Bridge laughed. “Nothing. This is just living.”***********************************************************“Just living” isn’t the easiest thing in the kingdoms of Valerie Laken. In her psychologically engrossing short story collection, there is always that gaping divide: between countries, cultures, or lovers, or even that schism within ourselves.In one of the most engrossing of the stories, Family Planning, a gay couple – Meg and Josie – travel to Russia to adopt a baby, and are suddenly faced with a choice: the little boy they had expected to bring home or an unknown baby girl. And Josie realizes in a flash, “Someone had to give sooner or later. That was how families and lovers everywhere functioned. It was not just a business thing, it was a kindness people gave to those they loved.”In another story, Remedies, Nick gets into a car accident as a result of losing small spells of time. “I’ll be going along like a regular person and then poof. It’s like the world has jumped ahead of me by a couple of minutes.” The future, the past, a vision of the flattest, basest reality all merge for him.And then there’s Before Long, another story in which a twelve year old blind boy named Anton briefly leaves his orderly and idyllic village life to visit a new American dentist and discovers, “There was no one anywhere, not even the foreigners, who could fix this.”Perhaps, though, the most inventive of the stories is the titled story, where a family strives to communicate after Colt – the father – loses his thumbs and his livelihood after he sabotages a machine at work. Ms. Lakin relies on a gimmick: a two-column, split-screen format to show the father’s viewpoint…and his young son Jack’s thoughts.While disconcerting at first, the conceit actually works: the reader can visually see the schism caused by lack of communication and connection and the deep divide that ensues. Colt has confined himself to a “reject room”; his son, Jack, is yearning for connection, at least with his classmates. As Colt is confronted by his former boss (on one side of the screen), Jack is drowning out the sounds with his drum-playing (Guh Duh Guh Guh Duh.) And, as Colt cries out, “I am not one of you!” at the retreating back of the lawyer, Jack is indeed trying to be “one of you” by taping his thumbs back to experience what his father is going through. It is indeed powerful.Ultimately, Valerie Laken – a Pushcart Prize-winning author – focuses her attention on the connections we need to make us whole by reaching out beyond our self-imposed borders. It’s a laudable achievement.

  • Dani (The Pluviophile Writer)
    2019-07-06 09:26

    Full review at The Pluviophile Reader: http://wp.me/p3VFNP-1Y3/5 Stars.(ARC) Paperback, 224 pages.Read from December 07 to 08, 2013.I'd like to thank Goodreads for free ARC copy of this book. This is a refreshing collaboration of intricate and intriguing short stories. This book was a quick read and I enjoyed the similar themes of division, loss and love and the emotional depth that each story contained. The author played with the dynamics of how these themes affect us, in that no matter who you are, where you are from and who you are with we all share the same pursuit for love and will all be faced with our own losses and divisions in that pursuit. Some of the stories are heart-retching while others make you feel a bit uncomfortable but I believe that is the desired effect.I found the story of the woman who lost her leg particularly touching. The story is narrated from the point of view of the husband as he struggles to reconnect with his broken wife who has yet to come to terms with the loss and actually embrace and love the body she now has. What was particularly effective was how you were able to get a perfect idea of the spite and hatred the wife had for her own position despite the story having been narrated from the husband’s point of view. It just details how well the husband knows his wife. It's torture to see what the husband has to deal with in terms of being mindful of his wife's turmoil but in also trying to address his own needs to reconnect with his wife and ultimately help her improve her well-being. The story's ending was, thankfully, hopeful.The story involving the adoption of a child I found difficult. There was so much tension between these two very different women over the selection of which child they were going to adopt together. This story was narrated from just the one woman in the relationship so I felt the need to take her maternal side (despite having not children) as her partner seemed eager to have the process over with and didn't seem to be too bothered with which child they ended up taking home with them. The couple’s predicament felt very real and in a way and had a sense familiarity to it. The overwhelming urge the narrator had to adopt the one specific child, while the story never went there, was going to have explosive implications for the couple and Laken did an excellent job in depicting this. Overall I enjoyed Laken's writing and would recommend this novel for anyone with an appreciation for well-written short stories. ***Woo! Another book I've won through Goodreads!

  • Stephanie
    2019-07-08 10:12

    3.5/5Separate Kingdoms is a collection of eight very diverse short stories taking place in both Russia and the U.S. with a wide variety of characters and narrators. While I’m not much of a big short story reader, I was intrigued by the premise of many of these stories and am overall pleased that I gave this book a chance.My favorite story was one titled ‘Family Planning,’ about an American lesbian couple over in Russia trying to adopt a baby. Meg is reluctant and indifferent about the experience, while her partner, Josie, is enthusiastic and overly hopeful. When they are shown two separate babies that are available for adoption, it is clear that they both want a different baby. I loved the dynamics in this story and the differences between the two women. You could really sense Josie’s desperation and Meg’s indifference.I also really enjoyed the story called ‘Map of the City,’ which takes place in Russia in 1991, and is from the point of view of an American student abroad. It focuses a lot on the various relationships she forms while there, as well as the riots and big changes that are occurring in the city.The writing throughout the book is eloquent and polished to near perfection. I must say, I both admire and envy Valerie Laken’s beautiful writing style and immense talent. She is able to perfectly capture so many different voices in this book in a simplistic but elegant manner. Her writing style is really astounding and these stories make you think. I can truly say I enjoyed all of these stories except for one of them, ‘Before Long.’ To me, that story didn’t seem to really go anywhere.My only problem with this book lies in the endings of almost all of the stories, if you could even really call them endings. All of these stories just abrubtly stop, leaving too many questions unanswered which really frustrated me. I would become invested in the stories and the people in them, and then BAM, no more. Though they’re not necessarily my favorite, I can definitely appreciate ambiguous endings that leave things up to the reader, but these stories just didn’t seem finished to me. Because of that, my rating is slightly decreased.If you’re a fan of short stories or multi-cultural books, I think you’d really like this one and I could highly recommend it.Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  • Zoë
    2019-06-27 07:02

    Separate Kingdoms by Valerie Laken is a collection of eight short stories, three of which take place in Russia and the remaining five which take place in the United States. Although the stories are unrelated, Laken shows the distinct differences between these two 'kingdoms' and different aspects of living in each country is explored throughout the collection. Many of the characters in Laken's writing are somehow damaged, there is a boy who is blind, a man who looses his thumbs, and a woman who has had her leg amputated. Even those who are not physically impaired often have another barrier to overcome, for example a lesbian couple looking to adopt a child. None of the characters in Separate Kingdoms are perfect, instead they are all human.Laken's writing is quiet yet satisfying and her perceptive way of looking at the word is both appealing and bleak. Although many of her stories end without a clear resolution, they manage to feel complete, each one a distinct moment in time. In "Family Planning" two women travel from the United States to Russia to adopt a child, but as same-sex adoptions are not allowed they must pretend to only be friends. When they arrive, they find there is a second child also available and they must choose between the two children and decided which one to take home. Each woman wants a different child, and the decision they are forced to make is heartbreaking. In the story, Laken writes "A family was a thing that stretched out beyond where you left off, made meaning of you." This is a perfect summary for the collection, which is full of Laken looking into ordinary lives and making meaning out of ordinary moments.The characters in the collection are troubled and confused, and the premise behind the stories is frequently an unhappy one. Ultimately, Separate Kingdoms is a strong and memorable collection because of the realistic ordinary darkness it contains and Laken's strong and beautiful voice does an incredible job of telling these stories.

  • Jessica
    2019-07-19 06:15

    My foray into short story compilations has been pretty limited, but I can still tell you that Separate Kingdoms stories pack a massive amount of emotion into such short pieces. These eight stories literally bleed tragedy and angst, but in the best way possible. Laken's writing is absolutely stunning. Well-worded prose, mixed with bittersweet stories and descriptive language create one deep read. This is not a set of stories that will raise your mood, let me warn you now. However Separate Kingdoms is so beautifully tragic and so realistic that it makes you want to keep reading, despite the somber tone of the stories.What you'll find between these covers are portraits of individuals learning, or struggling, to cope. Each one of these stories contains someone who is battling inner demons, fleeing from reality, longing for something more, or simply avoiding everything in an effort to blend in. It is no surprise that sometimes I was uncomfortable while reading these stories. Watching these characters navigate their respective inner battles is heart wrenching and sometimes hits a bit too close to home. Laken's ability to write the bare, naked souls of her characters is admirable, to say the very least.I truly don't think I will be rereading this compilation. Although I was drawn in at the time, Separate Kingdoms is most assuredly not a light read. I applaud Valerie Laken for her ability to shine a spotlight on the dark and gritty parts of all of us. These stories may not make you feel good, but they will definitely make you feel something. The only word I can truly think of to explain what you'll find between the covers of this book is "poignant", but even that doesn't seem like enough of a description. If you are a lover of short stories, or even a reader of great fiction for that matter, Separate Kingdoms is definitely something that you will want to check out.

  • The Rainbow Zebra
    2019-07-05 07:02

    My thanks to First Reads Giveaways for this ARC--I am not being compensated for my review.Valerie Laken's collection of short stories, Separate Kingdoms, alternates between settings in the United States and Russia. In the eight stories, the people find themselves divided and separated--by disability, need, species, and past hurts. It's a slice of life, where there are no easy answers, no true plot, and not necessarily a "happily ever after".I found the stories quite thought provoking and unique, especially the story for which the collection is named. It's been some time since I've read such fresh short stories; I think my only reason for subtracting a star would be wanting it to be longer and maybe a little less obvious reason for calling the collection "Separate Kingdoms". Make us think a bit more.I definitely would recommend this book for someone wanting something that feels new and fresh, and gives an opportunity to see a different viewpoint on things.

  • Kristin Runyon
    2019-07-02 12:26

    These stories are well-written. And in her interview included at the end, Laken cites one of my all-time favorite short stories (Amy Hempel's "In the Cemetery a Where Al ?jolson is Buried") as her inspiration for one if the stories, so I gave to like her. But every story is gritty; I imagine them in 1800s sepia tones. Just when I thought I couldn't read one more less-than-happy ending, I was sucked into continuing by the longest story that didn't make me want to take a break from the book (like the ending of every other story). But the last two were just as less-than-happy. The final story was interesting to read as it was presented as two narrations written side-by-side. I appreciate her craftsmanship, and I don't like happily-ever-after endings, but I would have liked a couple there's-potential-that-things-will-work-out endings.

  • cat
    2019-07-09 06:26

    2011 Book 56/100Based on her Pushcart Prize, I picked up this author's book of short stories and read all eight in one sitting. Valerie Laken's stories are set far from each other, in either Russia or the U.S., but share a common poignancy and tragic sense of family and loss throughout. These are not the stories to buoy your spirits, and many of them actually have no real closure to their angst (the loss of a limb, a blind boy's shocking trip to the city, a man who loses his thumbs, a wedge between a queer couple attempting to adopt) yet are very satisfying and left me with a distinct sense of completeness in their sadness and possibility for redemption just beyond reach.

  • Adam Johnson
    2019-07-14 05:07

    I love how the 8 stories in this collection are in conversation with one another. The author alternates "kingdoms" of location, and in so doing, the disabled and afflicted and blind come to share similar fates and speak the common language of loss. Even as Laken frames her characters as inhabitants of different realms, they eventually share stations of the same emotional cross. These well-observed, tightly knit stories focus on alienation, the inaccessibility of the American (and Russian) dream, and the unforeseen ways in which humans finally knit together their lives. Lovers of short stories should devour this collection.

  • Aleem
    2019-07-19 05:17

    *free copy received through Goodreads First ReadsMediocre to average tales presented in this collection.....The reason I requested a copy of this book was due to fact that I am a huge 'short story buff' and this contemporary set claimed to be a 336 page collection (so I figured there must be something out of the 300+ pages that will be worth my while!!)What I got was an ARC edition of 199 pages and after trekking through this volume I can honestly say that none of these tales stand out.The author is quite talented but her craft needs more polish IMHO......*free copy received through Goodreads First Reads

  • Julia Smillie
    2019-07-21 07:27

    I'll cop to being biased. About five years ago, I got to take a workshop with Valerie Laken for several weeks and I'm a big fan of her as a person. I'm also a big fan of her as a writer and I found this collection of short stories completely engaging. Some might find her trivia notes at the end, which include a musical track that evokes each story, to be a bit gimmicky, but I'll take it. I was fascinated to have the insight, just as I was moved by several of the stories' tales of people lost in different worlds. Terrific read.

  • Andrea
    2019-07-16 06:05

    Each story in "Separate Kingdoms" is as beautifully crafted as a gourmet chocolate and just as satisfying. My favorite stories were "Spectators," which is about a man and his wife (who has recently lost her leg in a car accident) attending a golf tournament for amputees, and "Family Planning," which is about a lesbian couple who travel to Russia to adopt a child from an orphanage. Laken has tremendous talent at revealing the fragility of our bodies, minds, and our relationships. A really lovely story collection!

  • April
    2019-06-21 04:17

    This is a book of short stories, quirky short stories. At first glance, the characters seem to be ordinary people. In each story, Valerie Laken takes her seemingly ordinary characters adds a kink or quirk to the story and the reader gets to read something unusual. I would recommend this book for people who first like short stories and then for people who are intrigued by the extraordinary in the ordinary. This is an interesting read.

  • Christopher Hebert
    2019-07-03 05:03

    Separate Kingdoms is an affecting, daring collection, both artful and courageous. Some of Laken’s characters are lost in unfamiliar landscapes, and others become lost in once familiar landscapes that have suddenly changed. Laken is at her best in those difficult moments when people are at their most vulnerable and unexpected trauma forces them to look at loved ones in new ways. Every story is a revelation.

  • Ryan Mishap
    2019-06-24 04:02

    Another fine collection restoring my devotion to short stories. To pick just one theme, I'd say these stories aim for the painful or sad as proof of how wonderful life is. If that makes sense to you, you will love these (with one exception). The titular story is phenomenal, but "Spectators" broke my little heart and was my favorite.

  • Jessica Janson
    2019-06-24 06:14

    Separate Kingdoms is a collection of eight very diverse short stories taking place in both Russia and the U.S. with a wide variety of characters and narrators. While I’m not much of a big short story reader, I was intrigued by the premise of many of these stories and am overall pleased that I gave this book a chance.I won this book via Goodreads giveaway

  • Emily Tedrowe
    2019-06-28 08:16

    These stories are vivid, off-beat, shocking, sad, and true. I felt different after reading them. Though the book is short, it lingers in my mind long after I finished it. So happy when a truly excellent collection of stories comes along.

  • Christy Sibila
    2019-06-27 04:12

    I am not a huge fan of the short story genre, so an author has to work hard to get my vote. I found laken to be a fairly talented writer, but the stories didn't really "speak" to me, and left me feeling unsatisfied, which is the abyss of all but the most talented of short story writers.

  • Amy Lutzke
    2019-06-28 05:18

    These stories were were entertaining and, as is typical with short stories, unexpected. Separate kingdoms is the last story in the book and is told in two voices, that of a father and son, living in their separate kingdoms.

  • Lisa
    2019-07-05 11:19

    More than a 3 but not quite a four for me.

  • Andrea
    2019-07-17 12:05

    I'm now a short story junkie, and this was a nice fix. Good stories of ordinary people in (for the most part) unusual situations. Very readable, sometimes sad.

  • Al Lloyd
    2019-07-13 05:02

    Kind of uneven collection. Couple of real good stories but others pretty ordinary. The title story seemed like a writer's workshop exercise.

  • Jane
    2019-07-02 04:09

    Great short stories, set both in the United States & in Russia. Drawn from real life, the stories ring human and true.

  • David Desautels
    2019-06-21 08:11

    Dark Stories

  • Marcela
    2019-06-26 04:16

    Just won this in First Reads contest!