This collection of poignant, very human stories leaves the reader wishing for even more of them. Each story is a miniworld where cultures clash, leaving the landscape with enough cracks for the characters to fall right in. Each character is forced to confront his or her identity; each learns something along the way. Hopes, disappointment, dreams, and despair inhabit these pages. Character stand-outs include a Chinese gymnast caught between the ancient and modern, an elderly grandmother managing a liquor store from a booth ten feet off the ground, a Jewish businessman locked in a one-sided battle with his Muslim employee, and the caretaker of a disabled child. These and all the other characters are fully developed and achingly real as life’s trials and challenges unfold in each of their worlds. The title story, about a Chasidic family out of place in Texas, is a particularly disturbing tale of good and evil that stays with you long after you turn the final page. Apple’s prose is unfailingly spare and clear, making this book a worthwhile addition to the story collection shelf.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.