Valerie Laken's work has appeared in such publications as Ploughshares, the Missouri Review, and the Chicago Tribune. The winner of a Pushcart Prize, she teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Separate Kingdoms: Storiesby Valerie Laken
From Valerie Laken, the Pushcart Prize–winning author of Dream House, comes a powerful collection of short stories charting the divisions and collisions between cultures and nations, families and outsiders, and partners and misfits searching for love. Set in Russia and the United States, these are boldly innovative stories—tales of/em>
From Valerie Laken, the Pushcart Prize–winning author of Dream House, comes a powerful collection of short stories charting the divisions and collisions between cultures and nations, families and outsiders, and partners and misfits searching for love. Set in Russia and the United States, these are boldly innovative stories—tales of fractured, misplaced characters moving beyond the borders of their isolation and reaching for the connections that will make them whole.
A family, shaken by an industrial accident, is divided, its members isolated in their home and only able to understand one another from their separate rooms. A young gay couple travels to Russia to meet the child they're desperately trying to adopt, but the experience reveals an emotional divide between the parents-to-be. A recent amputee removes herself from her body to keep her husband at bay. And the idyllic village life of a blind Russian boy is disrupted by an American dentist and the wonders of racy Western magazines. Separate Kingdoms is a rich and satisfying collection that traverses the distances between people and places in each marvelously rendered story.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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A woman waiting in the hospital as her father lies dying. A man who is trying to help his wife regain her life after a horrible car accident that has taken her leg. Refugees trying to fit into the culture of another country. A man left behind in his parents' house as the neighborhood dissolves into poverty and decay. These are the protagonists in Valerie Laken's stories found in Separate Kingdoms. Each faces a challenge that separates them from others; each struggles to find a way to span the void and reestablish contact with those around them. Laken was born in Illinois and has lived and worked in Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic. Her work has appeared in journals such as Ploughshares, the Missouri Review, the Antioch Review and the Chicago Tribune. She has also written a novel, Dream House. She has won a Pushcart Prize, the Missouri Review Editors' Prize and two Hopwood Awards. Laken teaches at the Universary of Wisconsin. Readers interested in short stories will be struck by the stark beauty of Laken's stories. Her characters face challenges, some of them bodily, some of them isolation, but regardless of their bleak situations, a tendril of hope insists on growing and searching for connection and a better tomorrow. This book is recommended for readers of modern fiction and those searching for an answer to how others face the everyday challenges life throws at most of us sooner or later.
Okay. Let's see. This was different. This was not what I was expecting. This was not your average, every day quick read. It wasn't a long book to read. No, nothing like that. The author did a great job at breaking it done into eight different stories, but I didn't really grasp them like I wanted to. These short stories were, simply put, interesting. Families divided, so to speak. Divided by life's challenges. Divided by emotions. Simply divided, and trying to over come that great space between them. Taken between Russia and America, Laken creates these short stories with dark emotions. She creates them with everyday life issues and turns them into stories that aren't your normal stories. With stories like FAMILY PLANNING, about a lesbian couple in Russia trying to adopt....well that is one that, while interesting, wasn't one I would want to read again. Reading through these, expecting something different, well I can honestly say that I didn't really like any of them. They were too dark in their emotions and not what I was expecting at all. Sadly, I can only give book 3 stars. I, myself, will not be reading this one again. However, I can recommend this book to those who like the darker emotion filled stories. They are well written, but just not my taste.