Booklist Reviews 2015 December #2
*Starred Review* Gustine packs her short stories tightly, pitches them high and far, and they detonate on target, literary grenades of resounding impact. The subjects she explores are also explosive: bad mothers, rotten marriages, religious conflicts, immigration, our uneasy relationship with other species, terrible maladies, death. And yet Gustine is funny. Pithily and wryly so. The fraught situations she thinks up are trenchantly and absurdly human, her flailing characters irresistible. An Israeli woman whose son is being held hostage slips into Gaza to search for him and finds herself drawn into the struggles of a Palestinian family. Stepping back a century, Gustine portrays a jilted and bitter doctor inspecting weary immigrants at Ellis Island. In the title story, a finely textured miniature of American family and community life, atheist parents struggle with disapproving neighbors and their young daughters' curiosity about their friends' beliefs. Gustine's tales are bursting with startling insights, stabbing dialogue, ambushing metaphors, and stunning moments of dissonance. Her first collection aligns her with such short story stars as Joy Williams, Antonya Nelson, and Bonnie Jo Campbell. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
PW Reviews 2015 October #1
In this dazzling debut collection, Gustine shows tremendous range, empathy, and spark. In the excellent title story, Simon and Molly move back to Ohio after he has finished his degree at UC Berkeley. Molly is astounded that so many people in Ohio "still believed in God." There are various faiths, yes, but as she notes, "diversity provided no cover": the problem is that Simon, a philosopher, has written a book on atheism, and the couple's two elementary school age daughters suffer from the stigma of having atheist parents. In "Prisoners Do," Mike, a radiologist, is sleeping with a colleague from the hospital while his wife, Fawn, sits on the couch at home, incapacitated after a stroke. Everyone's in an impossible position, and yet, in that stasis, they also provide one another with a kind of comfort. In "Coyote," Cory is the mother of a toddler whose paranoia about keeping her son safe veers into obsession. Sarah, the 22-year-old babysitter in "Half-Life," was taken away from her own mother as a child and placed in foster care. She's now the nanny (intentionally) for the daughter of the judge who ruled for the circumstances of her upbringing, all of which raises complicated questions about responsibility, irresponsibility, and blame. Gustine's language is uniformly remarkable for its clarity and forthrightness. (Feb.)[Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC