TLC Blog Tour & Review: Separate Kingdoms by Valerie Larken

Posted 22 April, 2011 by Molly(Cover To Cover Cafe) in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

About the Book:
From Valerie Laken, the Pushcart Prize–winning author of Dream House, comes a powerful collection of short stories charting the divisions and collisions between cultures and nations, families and outsiders, and partners and misfits searching for love. Set in Russia and the United States, these are boldly innovative stories—tales of fractured, misplaced characters moving beyond the borders of their isolation and reaching for the connections that will make them whole.

A family, shaken by an industrial accident, is divided, its members isolated in their home and only able to understand one another from their separate rooms. A young gay couple travels to Russia to meet the child they’re desperately trying to adopt, but the experience reveals an emotional divide between the parents-to-be. A recent amputee removes herself from her body to keep her husband at bay. And the idyllic village life of a blind Russian boy is disrupted by an American dentist and the wonders of racy Western magazines. Separate Kingdoms is a rich and satisfying collection that traverses the distances between people and places in each marvelously rendered story.

About the Author:
Born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, Valerie Laken has lived and worked in Moscow, Russia; Prague, Czechoslovakia; Krakow, Poland; Madison, Wisconsin; Iowa City, Iowa; and Ann Arbor, Michigan. She received an MA in Slavic Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan.

Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, the Chicago Tribune, Michigan Quarterly Review, the Alaska Quarterly Review, the Antioch Review, and Meridian. Her honors include a Pushcart Prize, the Missouri Review Editors’ Prize, two Hopwood Awards, and an honorable mention inThe Best American Short Stories.

Her first novel, Dream House, was inspired by her own experience buying and remodeling a home in which a murder had occurred.

Laken has taught at the University of Michigan and Carthage College, and is currently an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, where she teaches creative writing.

Visit Valerie at her website.

My Review:
Okay. Let’s see. This was different. This was not what I was expecting. This was not your average, every day quick read. It wasn’t a long book to read. No, nothing like that. The author did a great job at breaking it done into eight different stories, but I didn’t really grasp them like I wanted to.  These short stories were, simply put, interesting. Families divided, so to speak. Divided by life’s challenges. Divided by emotions. Simply divided, and trying to over come that great space between them.

Taken between Russia and America, Laken creates these short stories with dark emotions. She creates them with everyday life issues and turns them into stories that aren’t your normal stories. With stories like FAMILY PLANNING, about a lesbian couple in Russia trying to adopt….well that is one that, while interesting, wasn’t one I would want to read again. Reading through these, expecting something different, well I can honestly say that I didn’t really like any of them. They were too dark in their emotions and not what I was expecting at all.

Sadly, I can only give book 3 stars. I, myself, will not be reading this one again. However, I can recommend this book to those who like the darker emotion filled stories. They are well written, but just not my taste.

Visit other stops on this tour here.

You can purchase your copy here:

*This book was provided for review by the publisher and TLC Book Tours*

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