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Elegy on Kinderklavier
     

Elegy on Kinderklavier

by Arna Bontemps Hemenway
 

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Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction
Barnes & Noble 2014 Discover Great New Writers Selection, Third Place

The stories in Elegy on Kinderklavier explore the profound loss and intricate effects of war on lives that have been suddenly misaligned. A diplomat navigates a hostile political climate and an arranged marriage in

Overview

Winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction
Barnes & Noble 2014 Discover Great New Writers Selection, Third Place

The stories in Elegy on Kinderklavier explore the profound loss and intricate effects of war on lives that have been suddenly misaligned. A diplomat navigates a hostile political climate and an arranged marriage in an Israeli settlement on a newly discovered planet; a small town in Kansas shuns the army recruiter who signed up its boys as troops are deployed to Iraq, falling in helicopters and on grenades; a family dissolves around mental illness and a child's body overtaken by cancer. The moment a soldier steps on an explosive device is painfully reproduced, nanosecond by nanosecond. Arna Bontemps Hemenway's stories feel pulled out of time and place, and the suffering of his characters seem at once otherworldly and stunningly familiar. Elegy on Kinderklavier is a disquieting exploration of what it is to lose and be lost.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
03/03/2014
Death is an imminent, lurking presence in this debut collection of seven stories, which explore the confluence of fate and circumstance that places men in situations of anguish and despair. The tales unfold in slow motion with moments of acute sensitivity. “The IED” is a 22-page depiction of the “paroxysms of memory” that a soldier undergoes as he steps on an explosive device. A homeless veteran suffering from PTSD continuously relives his combat experiences in “The Fugue.” Hemenway’s prose is dense and often quite beautiful at the sentence level, but the pacing slows momentum. “In the Mosque of Imam Alwami,” the war in Iraq and the subsequent violent tide of fundamentalism affects the lives of three Kurdish friends in devastating ways. In the heartbreaking title story, Hemenway spares no grim details in depicting the anguish of a father watching his eight-year-old son dying of a glioma on his brain stem. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is vividly portrayed through the story of the death of a two-year-old burned to death by zealots in “The Territory of Grief,” which takes place in a futuristic town called New Jerusalem, located in the disputed territories and populated only by mourners. In “The Half Moon Martyrs’ Brigade of New Jerusalem, Kansas” an Army recruiter is blamed for the mortality rate of his town’s soldiers in Iraq. Hemenway’s earnest desire to reflect historical forces that tragically impact individual lives is admirable, but the collection is best read in small doses, and the cumulative effect can be overwhelming. (July)
From the Publisher
"In this impressive debut short story collection, Hemenway shows a depth of emotion and intensity that carries the reader from start to finish. These haunting stories deserve a wide audience."
Library Journal , starred review

"Death is an imminent, lurking presence in this debut collection of seven stories, which explore the confluence of fate and circumstance that places men in situations of anguish and despair."
Publishers Weekly

Library Journal
★ 05/15/2014
Hemenway's title story involves a troubled couple whose young son is dying of brain cancer; the kinderklavier is a child-sized keyboard replica that, tragically, never gets played. The story itself is a fuguelike elegy that weaves through the couple's history, moving back and forth in time from the perspective of the grieving father. This elegiac note is present in all of the stories, several of which focus on the pervasive losses of war on every front. They include a small Midwestern town whose children become alert to the visit of the officer who brings news of a casualty in Iraq, an Iraqi town in which civilians are scarred for life in a fire resulting from a bomb misdirected from an American helicopter, and a narrow alley in the moments that precede a fateful step on an improvised explosive device. VERDICT In this impressive debut story collection, Hemenway shows a depth of emotion and intensity that carries the reader from start to finish. These haunting stories deserve a wide audience.—Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA
Kirkus Reviews
2014-06-15
Violent deaths stud this debut collection, which has seven stories ranging from the U.S. through Iraq and Kenya to England.Many of the deaths happen in Iraq. "The IED" deconstructs the moment a soldier on patrol steps on an improvised explosive device and is blown to hell, while in "The Fugue," the patrol leader decides that the remains of a girl—an innocent victim in a wrongly targeted house—must be burned. Back home in "The Half Moon Martyrs' Brigade of New Jerusalem, Kansas," there’s a small town with a high number of Iraq combat deaths. The teenage sons of the dead fathers invent a hazing ritual: They beat the crap out of the son of the latest casualty. This is far-fetched, ghoulish excess. The teenagers in "In the Mosque of Imam Alwani" are three humble Kurds, two of them set on fire when a shell explodes. They survive, though badly scarred. Six years later, their paths have diverged. One is a preacher while another is gay, having sex with the young worshipers at the mosque. The most bizarre story is "The Territory of Grief," about a space colony the Israelis have established for those next of kin who are mourning victims of Mideast violence. The pain in these stories gets lost in their convoluted tellings. Only in the long title story does Hemenway communicate that pain powerfully. A mother discovers, to her horror, that she cannot muster unconditional love for her 8-year-old son, disfigured out of all recognition by a terminal brain tumor, and disappears on a long trip, leaving the boy's father by the hospital bedside.That story shows Hemenway to be a true writer, bearing witness, something the other stories had concealed.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781936747764
Publisher:
Sarabande Books
Publication date:
07/15/2014
Series:
Linda Bruckheimer Series in Kentucky Literature Series
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
878,838
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Arna Bontemps Hemenway holds an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and has received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Truman Capote Literary Trust. He teaches at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

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