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by N.S. Koenings

      In five international short stories dealing with some kind of wrongful loss or theft, author N.S. Koenings takes the reader on more of a long, meandering gondola ride rather than a speeding trip on the Autobahn. Her writing slowly and methodically takes in every detail of the scene, using vivid descriptions to transport the reader to exotic times, places, and people. These slice-of-life stories contain colorful, entertaining characters who are the essence of the story, rather than merely a means to an end. Instead of punchy endings, however, these stories merely conclude when Koenings has shared all she wants to about the characters.

In the title story, "Theft," a deceptive bus driver and a crooked policeman arrange for bus passengersí luggage to be stolen during an overnight stop. The stolen luggage creates parallel problems for an American shop girl and an African bus ticket boy, both of whom must find their inner resolve to make it through tough times. In another story, "Wondrous Strange," a woman in a weekly sťance club appears to have had her husband stolen away by someone in the spirit world. A quirky cast of characters debates the authenticity of the spirit and searches the area for sacrificial goats.

The plots of these and the other stories ("Pearls to Swine," "Sisters for Shama," and "Setting Up Shop") in Theft are not particularly noteworthy; itís the finely drawn characters and detailed descriptions of international locales that prove the most memorable. (These are explored in greater detail in the Reading Group Guide at the back of the book.) The author has lived and worked on three continents, which gives her stories an authentic feel about the intrinsically interesting nature of everyday things and everyday people when experienced by foreign cultures.

The Book

Back Bay Books / Hachette Book Group
March 25, 2008
Fiction / Short Stories
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The Reviewer

Leslie Halpern
Reviewed 2008
NOTE: Reviewer Leslie Halpern is the author of Reel Romance. The Lovers' Guide to the 100 Best Date Movies and Dreams on Film. Coming Soon: A Writer's Guide to Fearless Interviews.
© 2008