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Book reviews for "Henley,_Patricia" sorted by average review score:

Worship of the Common Heart: New and Selected Stories
Published in Paperback by MacMurray & Beck Communication (2000)
Author: Patricia Henley
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Women you know in your heart
In her debut novel, "Hummingbird House," Patricia Henley explored a flawed woman's humanity and how the choices she made echo throughout her life.

Now in "Worship of the Common Heart," a new collection of 19 earthy stories Henley has written over the past 20 years, the reader traverses the fertile ground from which "Hummingbird House" sprang: The complexities of a woman's heart. Her characters are complex and common, some strong, some down-and-out, and the events in their lives are as momentous as the flapping of a butterfly's wings, which , of course, might change the course of history. And like waiting for history to unfold fully, the reader who expects to find resolution in these stories will wait forever.

These are women we know. Each of them wants something, maybe not much ... but something. A daughter who seeks her mother to deliver news of her estranged father's death, but finds a broken heart. A young mother has an epiphany about life and love at the very moment she delivers a child. An older woman who prefers younger men finds unexpected joy in an unlikely place. A lonely mother and wife in an Alaskan tour-fishing camp sees her flirtatious teen-age daughter as both a savior and a rival. A young nun vacations with her wild sister and learns about worship.

One such woman is Kit Ruckerson, the narrator of "Aces." She's a bit of human flotsam drifting downstream in life. After an adult lifetime of wrong choices, she is marooned in bleak Bozeman, Mont., with her toddler son (fresh from a foster home) and her one-legged ne'er-do-well husband (fresh from jail after being busted for operating a meth lab in a horse barn). It's Thanksgiving, the family is destitute, sleeping in a borrowed garage and eating from a Salvation Army charity basket while Dad shares a few hits of hash with a buddy.

As Kit mooches for money from her mother, she feels like a she's "locked in my life like a child in a closet." But she's hardly a sympathetic creature. She's merely coming to terms with the excesses of her life:

" ... a woman does not find out who she'll be or what life will be like until she has a child. And for most women, having a child is like having all the windows in your house painted shut forever. Liberty is my oldest -- thirteen. She lives in Pocatello with her Dad, who's been through several reincarnations -- surfer, computer repairman, snowplow driver. Liberty was pure accident, as I believe so many babies are, even now."

It was "Hummingbird House" that established her as a rising literary star last year when it was a finalist for the National Book Award. The achievement was rare for two reasons: "Hummingbird House" was a first novel, and it was published by a small house, MacMurray & Beck in Denver. (Perhaps even more remarkable, MacMurray & Beck -- not one of the larger houses that tend to cherry-pick promising writers from independent houses -- will publish Henley's next full-length novel next year.) Henley's prose is powerful and honest, her characters sensual and complex. These vignettes are glimpses into a complex heart.

Only Trouble is Interesting
I'm pleased with this collection, though I hoped more than three new stories would be included. The other sixteen "selected" stories come from her first two collections, FRIDAY NIGHT AT SILVER STAR and THE SECRET OF CARTWHEELS. The majority of her published and collected short fiction is included in this volume, including such classics as "Same Old Big Magic," "Slinkers," and "The Birthing." I do like these new stories, too, the way each focal character's life is suggested and shown. Her characters make mistakes and deal with them, since only trouble is interesting in fiction. New stories like "Sun Damage" and "The Pleasure of Pears" suggest that, while Henley has already established herself as one of our most important story writers, much of her best work is still to come. I look forward to reading her books for a very long time, and I hope she continues to write stories even as her novels do well.

Hummingbird House
Published in Paperback by MacMurray & Beck Communication (29 April, 2000)
Author: Patricia Henley
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A Compelling Novel About Political Activists
A finalist for the National Book Award, this novel tells the story of once-idealistic Kate and her American friends who struggle against political and economic oppression during the 1980's. Kate is exhausted from her years of midwifery and nursing in Nicaragua and Guatemala, of the deaths she has known, of the love she has lost, and wants to return to the United States. She travels to Antigua, which she hopes will ease the transition to the safety and opulence of the U.S., but finds herself caught, unwilling to stay, unable to return to a world she had left. She and her friends try to forge small platforms of stability in love and friendship, but the overbearing presence of their political causes and the danger they face threaten to destroy what small pleasures they have.

I would give this book five stars if not for the slightly flat and predictable conclusion, but it was well worth the read. This novel is for all those who have engaged in or who support socio-political causes as well as for those who enjoy high quality literary fiction.

A substantive and vivid first novel
What's not to love about Kate Banner? She is noble, altruistic, intelligent, desirable and driven by service to mankind. She is willing to risk her own safety to help innocent people caught in the cross-fire of revolutions in Guatemala and Nicaragua. She offers medical comfort and guidance and shelter to those who would perish without it. She is the voice of reason and conscience in a part of the world where both appear in short supply. I applaud Patricia Henley for the time she spent in Central America researching this book -- she seems to understand from experience the essence of the cultures there. And it shows in the characters and story line and in the dialogue, which is especially vivid and real. Henley conveys a grasp of her setting amid its turmoil without overtly espousing political positions. I learned nothing much new about Nicaragua, which I have also visited: Henley didn't penetrate deeply into the substance of the conflict between the Contras and Sandinistas or the glorious landscape or the human paradox of Managua, which somewhat disappointed me. But she was able to shed significant new light on the Guatemala situation for me. Despite the intrusive, overwhelming absurdity of man and nature that Kate encounters in Central America, she remains resolute in her service to mankind, which often seems unworthy of such devotion. I deeply respect such noble optimism and integrity. Henley's portrayal of Father Dixie Ryan was excellent: what a wonderful character and so roundly drawn! I was pleased to learn of Henley's inclusion on the short lists for the National Book Award and the New Yorker's Top Book of the Year. The publisher took a well-calculated risk on this work, which is far removed from formulaic New York publishing fare. I look forward to more of such substantive fiction over the most promising literary career of Patricia Henley. Hummingbird House is milagro, a miracle.

supremely haunting
Patricia Henley has woven a most spectacular story in this book. It was difficult at first to find a way into the story -- I was confused and lost for a bit, but I managed to find my way in and unearth the triangle of lives that she builds the story around. Kate Banner is a noble and flawed woman -- and beautiful all the more in dealing with her struggles personally as well as in the treacherous world she choooses to live in. Into her world come a myriad of people -- most notably a priest with questions about his path in life (without compromising his faith and vibrancy) and a young orphan girl, whose impact on Kate changes her entire perspective. This is a book delicately written with such lush images that found myself reading certain passages over and over again. Couple that with human insights so bald, raw, and true that they still haunt me, and there's a beginning of an understanding of just how powerful a book this is. I loved the book when I read it, and as time passed after finishing it, the story stayed with me. I kept remembering it -- kept revisiting it -- kept seeing it. The story itself is wonderful wonderful and complex on its own... it has beauty and horror, love and hate, sense and incredulity, passion and war... its a love story as well as a crusade for humanity -- a story of a cause and an individual fighting to stay on top of the world long enough to make a difference -- a fight for self knowledge and understanding... and underneath it all is a masterwork of language, which lifts this book out of a story and into an experience. Henley's writing is so ripe in language there are phrases you can almost taste when read -- there is so much power in her choice of words that it will haunt you only moments after you've read them. She's created a beautiful experience for a reader -- one overflowing in humanity and haunting in language -- stay with the initial confusion, the reward is an experience that will stay with one for a long, long time.

The Secret of Cartwheels (Graywolf Short Fiction)
Published in Paperback by Graywolf Press (1992)
Author: Patricia Henley
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The second half is the reward
The stories in the first half of this book are good, but not wonderful, however when I got to the second half of the book I could barely put it down. Patricia Henley is an excellent, realistic writer and I recommend all of her books.

In the River Sweet
Published in Hardcover by Pantheon Books (17 September, 2002)
Author: Patricia Henley
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It's ok, but confusing
I wanted to really like this book. However, I skipped the entire middle bit and read the first 40 pages or so and then the last 50 pages or so. I don't feel like I really missed anything (other than Vo was blind, I guess). I found it really confusing to keep track of what decade the story was in and how many secrets Ruth Anne had. Stuff happens before the book that I didn't figure out how it affected them until almost 10 pages in.

It's probably a really good book if you can do stream of consciousness and flashbacks with no warning--I had problems with it this time.

One Storyline Would Have Sufficed
When I enjoy a book I rarely put it aside, I put this book aside more than once, and took a few weeks to finish the read. This book had multiple story lines/themes, and additionally the perpetrator of a vile act was much too predictable as to their identity.

I felt the issues that this family was forced to deal with as a result of their daughter's sexuality were enough to craft a book of almost any length. The parental relationship, the long held and valued place the Church held for certain characters, and how the Church treated them, again is enough for a book. The ignorance about a person's sexuality, the violence that can be created from such ignorance, teachings, doctrine, or medieval thinking that is still taught and believed could fill volumes.

I think the author took on a very appropriate and timely issue, and did so with a greater sensitivity than is often found on Main Street in America and many other nations. I think she could have had a very effective book had she confined it to the daughter and the trials she and her partner faced, and how the parents played their roles. Instead the book introduced other issues, arguably as complex and potentially disruptive to day to day family life, and instead of adding to a central theme, they were digressions, and major trips away from what I think was, or perhaps should have been the book's core.

I would read this writer again, but I would not suggest placing this book at the top of your, to be read list.

A moving novel about love and change
First with HUMMINGBIRD HOUSE and now with IN THE RIVER SWEET, Patricia Henley has established herself as a novelist of social and political wars. Her characters are rarely in the center of violent war but instead occupy the fringes, the gray areas people don't often consider. IN THE RIVER SWEET centers around Ruth Anne, a woman who traveled to Vietnam during the war to be closer to her drafted fiance Johnny and who spent her time there binding books at a convent. When the books opens, Ruth Anne has been married to Johnny for over twenty years. Their daughter Laurel has just announced that she is in love with a woman, a fact that Ruth Anne can accept intellectually but not personally. To complicate her already turbulent emotions, Ruth Anne is contacted via email by the secret son she left behind in Vietnam. Everything she had counted on shifts dangerously underneath her.

Henley touches upon - but does not fully develop - the effects of the Vietnam War, the clandestine operations in Laos, and gay rights. Each member of Ruth Anne's family bears scars from at least one of these conflicts. They all seek a salve to alleviate their pain and confusion. While Henley roots her people in war (and gay-bashing falls into that category), she cares less about the particulars of the general issues and more about the private lives affected by them. Ultimately, this is a novel about love and family.

I recommend this novel for readers of literary fiction and of socially engaged work. The interior nature (no quotation marks, detailed exploration of thoughts and emotions) demands greater concentration than does a commercial novel. Because Henley's last work was a finalist for the National Book Award, expect to see this novel garner widespread attention.

Back Roads
Published in Paperback by Carnegie Mellon University (1997)
Author: Patricia Henley
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Friday Night at Silver Star (Graywolf Short Fiction Series)
Published in Paperback by Graywolf Press (1999)
Author: Patricia Henley
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Learning to Die: Poems
Published in Paperback by Three Rivers Pr (1977)
Author: Patricia Henley
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