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Library Journal Review
Starred Review. Aging and death reverberate throughout Atwood's (MaddAddam) excellent collection. The first three stories give different perspectives on a shared past. In "Alphinland," newly widowed Constance reminisces about ex-lover Gavin, whose poetry she supported with her successful fantasy novels. "Revenant" picks up Gavin's life as an elderly poet, famous for the poems of his youth but now soured on life and love. "Dark Lady" introduces Jorrie, the muse of Gavin's early poems and the reason Constance left Gavin. While the other stories move on to different characters and story lines, end-of-life indignities and the desire for revenge connect them. Verna, in the title story, is on an Arctic cruise when she meets the man who date-raped her when she was 14 and decides to even the score. Jack, in "The Dead Hand Loves You," considers killing old friends in order to nullify a long-ago financial contract. And in "Torching the Dusties," the residents in a retirement home are threatened by raging youth who resent the bad decisions the previous generation has visited on them. VERDICT Poignant, funny, distressing, and surreal, Atwood's stories bring the extraordinary to the ordinary. For Atwood devotees and literary fiction fans. [See Prepub Alert, 3/24/14.]-Joy Humphrey, Pepperdine Univ. Law Lib. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Atwood, a bestselling master of fiction, delivers a stunning collection-her first since 2006's Moral Disorder. Most of the nine stories feature women who have been wronged as girls but recover triumphantly as adults. Atwood brings her biting wit to bear on the battle of the sexes. The first three stories in the book-"Alphinland," "Revenant," and "Dark Lady"-are linked by a pretentious poet and his girlfriends, who best him professionally and personally as he ages into an impotent, disgruntled old man with a wife 30 years his junior: "He probably has more horns on his head-as the bard would say-than a hundred headed snail." Corpses are found, as in "The Freeze-Dried Groom"-or not found, as in the title story, set on an Arctic cruise, in which a woman takes her revenge on the high school "Mr. Hearthrob, Mr. Senior Football Star, Mr. Astounding Catch... Mr. Shit" of 50 years before. Readers love Atwood's women, despite, or because of, who they are and what they do. Add in her wild imagination-women conversing with dead husbands; genetic missteps that produce a girl with yellow eyes, pink teeth, and "long, dark chest hair"; and costumed "little people" who appear to an elderly nursing home resident-and it's clear that this grande dame is at the top of her game. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Atwood is shrewdly brilliant, gleefully mischievous, and acerbically hilarious in her first short-fiction collection since the superb Moral Disorder (2006). She portrays baby boomers much irked by age's dirty tricks and the rankling of painful memories. Atwood also has good satiric fun mocking the pretension of the writing vocation even as she marvels over its curious felicities. Young Constance began composing fantasy stories to support Gavin, her ne'er-do-well poet lover. Now a wispy new widow gamely venturing out into a ferocious blizzard, she is quite famous for her long-running, movie-adapted Alphinland series and seems to be acquiring the sort of supernatural powers she thought were confined to her imaginary realm. In The Dead Hand Loves You, a feckless college student makes a devil's deal with his roommates concerning the seemingly dim prospects for his cheesy horror tale about a jilted lover's creepy revenge. Atwood's canny adventures with the macabre also involve a grisly discovery in a storage unit, a wry and clever freak of nature, and, in the surprising and supremely satisfying title story, spontaneous retribution in the Arctic. Intimations of worsening environmental disruption appear throughout the collection, culminating in Torching the Dusties, in which personal vendettas give way to mass vigilante justice. Atwood has the raptor's penetrating gaze, speed, and agility and never misses her mark. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Ads and promotional efforts will inspire Atwood's ever-expanding and active reader base, including her hundreds of thousands of social media followers.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2014 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Clever tales about writers, loversand other weirdos.This, explains Atwood in theacknowledgements, is a book of tales, not stories, which meansthat it's removed "at least slightly from the realm of mundane works anddays"; you could say the same about most of the 40-plus preceding worksfrom this playful, sharp-edged and politically alert author, now 74 (MaddAddam,2013, etc.). Many of the characters in this collection are no longer young, buttheir situations, and the sentences that describe them, are fresh and vigorous,including descriptions of sex acts and profanity as necessarydon't let the old-ladything fool you. The first three tales, which are the highlight of the book,feature aging writers and their bohemian circle, interweaving funerals andghostly conversations with accounts of old conquests and betrayals. "YoungConstance felt very lucky to have been taken up by Gavin, who was four yearsolder than she was and knew a lot of other poets, and was lean and ironic andindifferent to the norms of society and grimly satirical, as poets were then.Perhaps they're still like that. Constance is too old to know." Video games,trendy literary criticism and Dropbox (is that an "indoor catpoostation"?) all play a role. "The Dead Hand Loves You" considersanother writer late in his career. Young Jack sold shares in his fledglingnovelistic effort to his roommates to pay his rent but decades later will doanything (yes) to get them back. The revenge theme continues in "StoneMattress," in which a woman meets her erstwhile date rapist on an Alaskancruise and he doesn't even recognize her. Fun to learn in the endnote thatAtwood and her husband, Graeme Gibson, started this story as a way to entertaintheir fellow passengers on an Adventure Canada yacht.Up to her old tricks and notdropping a card. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.