Books

The writers gathered in these pages are among the finest, and the material they are working with is, by its nature, powerful and compelling. The result is stories that are by turns brutal and hilarious, dark and redemptive. Every one of them speaks to a truth we should not, cannot, turn away from.

Mary Roach, New York Times bestselling author of Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War

The Road Ahead
Stories of the Forever War

A decade has passed since boots first hit the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the war has not ended―only changed. Twenty-five diverse veteran voices reflect the changing face of combat and reflect the haunting realities and truths only fiction can reveal.

These masterfully crafted stories from writers who have served reflect the entire breadth of human emotion―loss, anger, joy, love, fear, and courage―and the evolving nature of what has become America’s “Forever War.”

From debut writers to experienced contributors whose work has been featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic, and the New Yorker, this exceptional collection promises to be the definitive fictional look at the aftereffects of the Iraq and Afghan Wars, and will resonate with the reader long after the final page.

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Loving
by Henry Green, introduction by Roxana Robinson

Loving is set in the vast hereditary house of the Tennants, an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family, but the story mainly involves their servants. The war has led to a scarcity of experienced staff, and when Eldon the butler dies, Raunce the head footman is assigned his job. The other servants are taken aback by this irregular promotion, but lovely young Edith, a recent hire, is quite attracted to the older Raunce and a flirtation begins. And it is Edith who discovers Mrs. Tennant’s daughter-in-law, whose husband is fighting at the front, in bed with a neighbor one morning, scandalizing the whole household.

When the Tennants depart for England, Raunce is left in charge of the house and struggles to control its disputatious inhabitants as well as to secure the love of Edith, especially after a precious family jewel disappears. In Loving, Henry Green explores the deeply precarious nature of ordinary life against the background of the larger world at war.

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One of the many strengths of this engaging story is that Robinson doesn’t treat post-traumatic stress disorder with that nifty abbreviation, PTSD, neatly buttoning it in place. Instead, she shows us a more insidious, layered and complex mix of debilitating psychological wounds…

Ron Carlson, The New York Times Book Review

Sparta

Sparta included on Short List for the 2015 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Conrad Farrell has no family military heritage, but as a classics major at Williams College, he has encountered the powerful appeal of the Marine Corps ethic. “Semper Fidelis” comes straight from the ancient world, from Sparta, where every citizen doubled as a full-time soldier. When Conrad graduates, he joins the Marines to continue a long tradition of honor, courage, and commitment.

As Roxana Robinson’s new novel, Sparta, begins, Conrad has just returned home to Katonah, New York, after four years in Iraq, and he’s beginning to learn that something has changed in his landscape. Something has gone wrong, though things should be fine: he hasn’t been shot or wounded; he’s never had psychological troubles. But as he attempts to reconnect with his family and his girlfriend and to find his footing in the civilian world, he learns how hard it is to return to the people and places he used to love. His life becomes increasingly difficult to negotiate: he can’t imagine his future, can’t recover his past, and can’t bring himself to occupy his present. As weeks turn into months, Conrad feels himself trapped in a life that’s constrictive and incomprehensible, and he fears that his growing rage will have irreparable consequences.

Suspenseful, compassionate, and perceptive, Sparta captures the nuances of the unique estrangement that modern soldiers face as they attempt to rejoin the society they’ve fought for. Billy Collins writes that Roxana Robinson is “a master at…the work of excavating the truths about ourselves”; The Washington Post’s Jonathan Yardley calls her “one of our best writers.” InSparta, with the powerful insight and acuity that marked her earlier books (CostSweetwater, and A Perfect Stranger, among others), Robinson delivers her best book yet.

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Roxana Robinson’s Cost artfully portrays a family transformed by the far-reaching consequences of a son’s heroin addiction.

Vanity Fair

Cost

In Cost, Robinson tackles addiction and explores its subtle effects on the bonds of family, dazzling us with her subtlety and precision in evoking the emotional interiors of her characters. The result is a work in which the reader’s sense of discovery and compassion for every character remain unflagging to the end, even as the reader, like the characters, is caught up in Cost‘s pace.

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Roxana Robinson’s beautifully rendered prose captures moments of domestic drama—sometimes painful, sometimes ecstatic, always heartrending and illuminating.

Joyce Carol Oates

A Perfect Stranger and Other Stories

In Roxana Robinson’s lucid and elegant prose, her characters’ inner worlds open up to us, revealing private emotional cores that are familiar in their needs, their secrets, and their longings. These people tell us the truth–not only about themselves, their relationships, and their lives, but about ourselves as well. A Perfect Stranger powerfully and affectingly examines the complex, intricate network of experiences that binds us to one another. These stories are tender, raw, lovely, fine–and they reaffirm Roxana Robinson’s place at the forefront of modern literature.

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There is such quiet power in this fateful novel, present from the start and gathering to its culmination: a story of loss and remarriage and of the harm done to and by vulnerable men and women. This is cool, intrepid writing, not a word wasted, creating a human tension that reflects our endangered world.

Shirley Hazzard

Sweetwater

Isabel Green’s marriage to Paul Simmons, after the death of her first husband, marks her reconnection to life — a venture she’s determined will succeed. But this proves to be harder than she’d anticipated, and the challenges of starting afresh seem more complicated in adulthood. Staying at the Simmons lodge for their annual summer visit, Isabel finds herself entering into a set of familial complexities. She struggles to understand her new husband, his elderly, difficult parents and his brother, whose relationship with Paul seems oddly fraught. Furthermore, her second marriage begins to cast into sharp relief the troubling echoes of her first. Isabel’s professional life plays a part as well: a passionate environmental advocate, she is aware of the tensions within the mountain landscape itself during a summer of spectacular beauty and ominous drought.

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Often compared to John Cheever…but Robinson’s latest novel made me think of an earlier literary forebear, Henry James.

The New York Times

This Is My Daughter

When Peter and Emma, both refugees from failed first marriages, decide to create a new life together, they do so with an optimistic commitment to creating a union — and forging a new family from two existing ones — bonded by love and trust. Their young daughters, however, are not partners in this new venture, but helpless participants. Like all children of divorce, the girls feel sorrow, loss, and a longing for their earlier lives. As the tensions and complexities grow steadily more powerful, This Is My Daughter moves inexorably to a stunning and emotional climax. Roxana Robinson, who has established a reputation as a perceptive chronicler of WASP family life, delivers a beautifully moving and compassionate account of a marriage in peril, proving once more that class and privilege provide no protection from the passion of opposing desires.

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Short stories that expose the desperation under the skin of seemingly invulnerable upper-class, blue-eyed WASPs. Robinson writes like an angel.

Cosmopolitan

Asking for Love

In this second collection of her short fiction, the author returns to the world she knows so well, and shows us men and women whose lives are in various stages of disarray or disrepair. Divorce and remarriage have altered their landscapes, and they struggle to achieve order with a new set of rules. Stories like “The Nightmare” and “Family Restaurant” explore the minefields of stepparenting and portray the confused struggles—sometimes silent, sometimes not—of the ultimate victims of divorce, the children.

Several of the stories in this collection have appeared in The Atlantic and Harper’s, and one, “Mr. Sumarsono,” was included in The Best American Short Stories 1994.

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Once people like these were the focus of Henry James and Edith Wharton: in recent years Louis Auchincloss and John Cheever have been their chroniclers. Robinson shows similar mastery of form, and she belongs in their august company.

Time

A Glimpse of Scarlet
And Other Stories

In the tradition of John Cheever, Roxana Robinson charts the hidden realities beneath the serene and gleaming surface of old-guard WASP family life. Taking readers into the summer homes, town houses, and boarding schools of those for whom power and wealth come as a birthright, she uncovers an astonishing emotional territory.

Here, in the first collection of her short fiction, Robinson probes the pain and joy of raising children, the allure of illicit love, the ordeal of divorce, as well as more subtle events—the small but often exquisitely painful betrayals that litter the course of a life.

But in her world, grace too can be near at hand, and Robinson balances these harrowing portraits with stories that uncover the possibility of reunion and renewal—and moments of transcendent loveliness that promise, and deliver, “merely great delight.”

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Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life

Georgia O’Keeffe is arguably the 20th century’s leading woman artist. Coming of age along with American modernism, her life was rich in intense relationships — with family, friends, and especially noted photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Her struggle between the rigorous demands of love and work resulted in extraordinary accomplishments. Her often-eroticized flowers, bones, stones, skulls, and pelvises became extremely well known to a broad American public. The New York Times Book Review named this richly detailed and moving biography a Notable Book of the Year.

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“Roxana Robinson’s beguiling story is rich with the lessons we all should have learned from Henry James and Edith Wharton.”

Susan Cheever

Summer Light

Summer Light is the story of a young woman hovering between careers, between marriages, between lives—and of the summer that throws her off balance and onto her feet. Laura is in her middle 30s, separated but not yet divorced from her philandering husband. She is spending the summer on the Maine coast with Ward, the man she lives with; Sam, her 3-year-old son; her sister, Sarah; Sarah’s husband, Richie; and their two adolescent daughters. It was supposed to be a tranquil family summer, full of berry picking, sailing, days spent in the sun and evenings before the fire—but it doesn’t turn out quite that way.

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