Oct 5, 2008

A Grave in the Air & Contest

I received A Grave in the Air by Stephen Henighan from Mini Book Expo for Bloggers, and it took a long time to get to my mailbox from Thistledown Press in Canada. When it finally arrived I was happy to begin reading. I've often loved reading novels and short stories that show how war can impact families, relationships, and societies. Although the short stories often do not provide the reader with in-depth war strategy and in-the-moment events, whether it is World War II or the Bosnian-Serbian conflict of the 1990s, the impact of war is palatable in the lives of the characters Henighan created.
The book of short stories starts off with "The Killing Past," which examines the impact of an aunt's story about a family's ancestor on her nephew Bartholomew. The obsession it becomes for Bart is phenomenal.

In "Miss Why," Agnieszka is an inquisitive youth growing up in Poland at a time when the nation is moving away from socialism toward more Western ideals. While she struggles to find her place in society, she meets a man with a similar outlook on the Western ideals taking over their society. It was interesting to see how they coped with the transformation of their society, though there really was no resolution in this short story, which left me a bit disappointed.

"Duty Calls" follows Tibor, who is recently divorced, and his relationship with a woman he has not seen in many years and his disillusionment with himself since his divorce. This story is not very uplifting, but it does deal with how a man, who sees himself as an outsider, will act to gain acceptance.

In "Beyond Bliss," which was my favorite of the short stories, Vivian compromises her integrity to get what she wants. To help her friend, Ray, build his publishing house in Canada, she gains the trust of Erich, a controversial author. Vivian, another character who feels like an outsider in Canada because she is British, uses her ambition to find her place in the world.

I also really enjoyed "A Sense of Time," "Freedom Square," and "Nothing Wishes to Be Different" because they show the reader a series of relationships that change between former students at university because of a single event, a relationship between a mother and daughter because of the daughter's summer job, and the relationships between a father and mother and their children when the father makes one fateful and personal decision about his own life.

While this is not one of my favorite short story collections, it does have a great deal going for it. It examines how war in the present and past can have an impact on someone, even if they are not directly involved in a conflict. Some of the characters are quirky and bit out there, but others are carefully nuanced.

Dear Readers, I would love to give away my copy of A Grave in the Air by Stephen Henighan to one lucky winner. Please leave a comment here if you wish to enter the contest. Deadline is Oct. 10 at Midnight EST. I will announce the winner on Oct. 11. If you blog about this contest, you get 2 more entries.


Anonymous said...

Great review! I'll get it posted this week, :)

P.S. LOVE the mini book expo!

Serena said...

Thanks for stopping by. I assume you don't want to be entered into the contest. :)

Thanks for posting my contest.

Dewey said...

I'm not interested in the contest (not a huge short story fan) but thanks for the link to the mini book expo!

Serena said...

You are welcome for the link. Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

You won a copy of Willow!

Anonymous said...

Serena, this sounds like an interesting book. I'm sure especially in the current climate it would be very thought-provoking.

I'm not entering contests for a while. My TBR is overwhelming.

I don't remember seeing this on Mini Book Expo, but then I haven't allowed myself to look for over a month because I have my two book quota and I figure why tempt myself when I can't get more books right now.

windycindy said...

I am a big fan of short stories. Please enter me in your book drawing. I really appreciate it! Thanks, Cindi

Serena said...

Thanks for stopping by Shana; I have the same problem with my TBR pile.

Cindy: Thanks for entering the contest.

Corinne said...

Serena - thanks for stopping by my blog!! I like this review - you do a lovely job. PLUS, we live in the same neck of the woods!!

Serena said...

I try to stop by everyone's blog that is on my bloglines list. Corinne, I had no idea we were in the same area. :)

Feel free to enter any of my contests and stop by and comment.

Anna said...

Great review! I really want to know what decision the father makes in the last story you mentioned.

Please enter me in your contest. I'm going to put a link to it in my blog sidebar.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Great review, Serena!

No need to enter me; I'm just dropping in to let you know I posted this over at Win a Book.

Anonymous said...

I love short stories!
I'm reading a great collection now called 'Going Alone' about women on their own in the wilderness.
Sounds like an interesting collection of stories
enter me please :)

Serena said...

Thekea: Welcome! I have entered your name in the contest. I'm pleased to see a new face, hopefully you'll stick around for some other upcoming reviews.

Your short story collection sounds like a winner as well. I might just have to check it out.

a real librarian said...

I'd love to win - thanks for the chance!!


Rebekah E. said...

I love short stories. Please enter me.

Anonymous said...

I'll take ya up on that there contest. And put me down for TWO points, you savvy marketer you. LOL Great idea to get more traffic and up the buzz about your contest. Mind if I use that some time? (smile)

I'll put an announcement in tomorrow's post at Free Spirit.

Marvin Blogs at Free Spirit: http://inspiritandtruths.blogspot.com/
Eye Twitter 2 - http://twitter.com/Paize_Fiddler

Serena said...

Marvin: I've learned from some of the best book bloggers here! Thanks for posting about the contest and for entering. Good luck!

Rebekah: Consider yourself counted.

betty R.~Simply Southern said...

Me and my son love short stories,,enter me please..thank you very much!


betty R.~Simply Southern said...

got you added to my blog tonight with links as well..thanks again..


Serena said...

Betty thanks for stopping by and entering the contest!

Anita Yancey said...

Really nice review. This book sounds like something I would really like to read. Please enter me.

Jackie B. said...

PLease enter my name. I love short stories.

Serena said...

Anita: You're entered.

Jackie: You didn't leave your email!

avalonne83 said...

Sounds great!
Please enter me in the contest. Thanks.

avalonne83 [at] yahoo [dot] it

Serena said...

thanks for entering the contest!

Jeannie said...

Phew, glad I made it in time. Please enter me in the contest. It sounds like a very interesting book. Thanks, Serena. :D

Serena said...

Thanks for entering, Jeannie!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for leading me here! You might as well enter me too!


Does your comment on my post count as two entries?!

If not, no problem, I will put it on my post!


Darlene said...

Hey Serena, I don't want to be entered(just cause I'm not a fan of short stories) but I did add this to my Giveaways this week. I had meant to when I was posting it but my memory isn't so good anymore.

Serena said...

Dar: no worries about not entering the contest. I've got the new contest feature on my sidebar that I am trying to keep updated by removing ones that have passed etc. sometimes I forget.

Gautami: Thanks for entering the contest and blogging about it. I will put you down for the extra entries.