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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Read this collection of short stories from the Pulitzer Prizewinning author of Empire Falls backward. That's the only way to avoid comparing each of the other six strong stories to the masterful title piece. Inventively constructed, emotionally honest, and with a climactic punch that is both inevitable and surprising, "The Whore's Child" (the story) is as close to a perfect short story as you'll find anywhere.
To be sure, The Whore's Child (the collection) contains many other pleasures and poignant pains. "The Mysteries of Linwood Hart" is a knowing portrait of a ten-year-old whose coming-of-age is triggered not by a sexual awakening but by an understanding that he is not the center of the universe. "The Farther You Go" offers a compelling portrait of a man who finds himself surprisingly sympathetic to the son-in-law who struck his daughter. If the plot of "Joy Ride," in which a woman takes her young child on a cross-country odyssey to escape a troubled marriage, sounds familiar, rest assured that Russo's observations and conclusions are not. Even when he treads a little too closely to John Cheever territory (it's difficult to read Russo's "Buoyancy" without thinking of Cheever's "The Swimmer"), his sharp characters and spare imagery carry you through. With all those riches, though, it's "The Whore's Child" -- about a writing teacher's encounter with a nun devoid of the ability to fictionalize -- that haunts, demanding a reread as soon as the rest of the collection is complete.
This is the first collection of stories from the novelist who hit the ball out of the park with Empire Falls after building a strong and steady following for his earlier novels, including Nobody's Fool and Straight Man. As with all of his novels, The Whore's Child is a satisfying, accessible, and moving must-read. (Lou Harry)