Reviews of November Storm by Robert Oldshue

November Storm

Iowa Short Fiction Award

by Robert Oldshue

November Storm by Robert Oldshue X
November Storm by Robert Oldshue
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Oct 2016, 140 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Davida Chazan
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About this Book

Book Summary

In upstate New York, a November storm is one that comes early in the season. If it catches people off-guard, it can change them in the ways Oldshue's characters are changed by different but equally surprising storms.

In each of the stories in Robert Oldshue's debut collection, the characters want to be decent but find that hard to define.

In the first story, an elderly couple is told that delivery of their Thanksgiving dinner has been canceled due to an impending blizzard. Unwilling to have guests but nothing to serve them, they make a run to the grocery, hoping to get there and back before the snow, but crash their car into the last of their neighbors. In "The Receiving Line," a male prostitute tricks a closeted suburban schoolteacher only to learn that the trick is on him. In "The Woman On The Road," a twelve-year-old girl negotiates the competing demands of her faith and her family as she is bat mitzvahed in the feminist ferment of the 1980s. The lessons she learns are the lessons learned by a ten-year-old boy in "Fergus B. Fergus," after which, in "Summer Friend," two women and one man renegotiate their sixty-year intimacy when sadly, but inevitably, one of them gets ill. "The Home Of The Holy Assumption" offers a benediction. A quadriplegic goes missing at a nursing home. Was she assumed? In the process of finding out, all are reminded that caring for others, however imperfectly - even laughably - is the only shot at assumption we have.

November Storm

That Thanksgiving, Andy was coming, so Doris thought the call was from him. "Maybe he's got car trouble," she said when the phone rang.

"Maybe he's got someplace better to go," said her husband, Ed.

But it was a woman from Wegmans, the grocery that had their dinner. "Because of the snow, we're canceling deliveries."

"It isn't snowing here," Doris told her.

"A foot by noon and two feet by tonight and wind chills of thirty below."

"They said a dusting or maybe nothing."

"That's not what they're saying now, ma'am. I'm sorry, ma'am."

It was shortly before nine, and, if Andy hadn't called, he and Jen and the grandchildren were out on I-90, facing the kind of storms there could be in upstate New York. When the boys were still swimming, the family had driven to a meet in Corning, in the winter, and the weather had gotten bad and then worse and there'd been talk of stopping the meet early. Some of the parents had taken their ...

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Reviews

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However, more important than content and theme, is Oldshue's ability to master the short story form, which can be difficult to accomplish. On the one hand, Oldshue's style seems to ramble along, going off on what seem like tangents and getting overly involved in back stories. However, even with these seeming digressions, he beautifully succeeds in bringing the stories back together to get to his main point. Mind you, his final lines often feel a tad on the mysterious side but, with just a moment's thought, the reader gets his point. That is the most magical part of these stories – those last lines. (Okay, I know, some people will think that's cliché, but seriously, if you think about it, when done just right, that punch at the end can be amazing.)..continued

Full Review (447 words).

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(Reviewed by Davida Chazan).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Oldshue writes a loose, relaxed prose, that of an unhurried natural storyteller with a wry affection for many of his characters and a wide range of human interest.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Oldshue's sturdy prose and potent, understated endings will satisfy fans of the classic short story.

Library Journal
Accessible stories that many will enjoy.

Author Blurb Helen Fremont, author, After Long Silence: A Memoir
These superb stories are written with a sharp wit, big heart, and profound wisdom. Oldshue’s genius lies in his ability to bring remarkable emotional complexity to the lives of ordinary characters whom we recognize as ourselves. A brilliant debut.

Author Blurb Rosamund Lupton, author, Sister
A dazzling collection of stories, each with the depth and complexity of a novel. Utterly compelling.

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Beyond the Book

Bat Mitzvah

One of the stories in Robert Oldshue's November Storm is about a 12-year old girl who is about to become a Bat Mitzvah. Most people have heard of a Bar or Bat Mitzvah – a Jewish rite of passage; a time when boys and girls are formally welcomed into the adult community. The word mitzvah means commandment or law, as well as good deed; the word bar and bat mean son and daughter. The combination of these words literally tells us that this is when a son or daughter becomes obliged to keep the Jewish commandments/laws, or to carry out good deeds for the community; figuratively, this is when a child becomes an adult. For boys, this takes place around their 13th birthday; for girls, it is when they turn 12.

Davida Chazan at her Bat MitzvahWhen brought to practice, this ...

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