Transgressions and Other Stories

Hilary Orbach
iUniverse, 239 pages, (paperback) $16.95, 9781475980455
(Reviewed: December, 2013)

The work of a New York City psychotherapist, these 14 precisely-written stories deal with the kinds of problems their author is likely to hear about every day at the office: grief, rage, betrayal, family dysfunction, loneliness, sexual awakening, the discontents of modern life.

Hilary Orbach's characters can seem a bit overcivilized (the story is replete with Grahams, Adeles, Trevors and Elyses) and, for their unlikely coincidences, her plots can feel as calculated as blueprints. But the author has her finger squarely on the pulse of the human animal as it lurches out of the long night of existence into the half-light of morning. She is an observant writer.

In “Jeopardy,” a needy neighbor suffering from AIDS undermines the tenuous relationship of two young lovers living in a cramped Manhattan apartment. Having alienated his beloved, the uncertain narrator concludes: “Sometimes I think our only safety lies in not really knowing each other.”

That theme recurs in the Cheever-esque “Transgressions,” wherein an adulterous couple ruins two suburban families. The couple ultimately winds up estranged because “you can't ever be sure you really know the other.” In “Touch,” a young widow who sells psychotropic pharmaceuticals tries—and fails—to love a blind guidance counselor, and in “Becoming Mira,” a teenager realizes she's a lesbian just before finding her troubled father in the arms of the older woman she's fallen for.

Taking stock, perhaps, of her own profession, Orbach glimpses an unsettled Manhattan psychiatrist in “Verona Waits for You.” In the end, the shrink and a rough-hewn New Jersey divorcee set out as “a pair of hopeful messengers through the darkness.”

A touch of humor here and there might color up these dark tales about unhappy people. But as visions of the untidy mind, the troubled conscience, and the doomed soul seeking redemption, they largely succeed, adding up to a collection that’s well worth a look.

Also available in hardcover and ebook

Author’s Current Residence
New York, New York

Source: BlueInk Reviews

Fire From the Sky

Ron Greer and Mike Wicks
iUniverse, 272 pages, (paperback) $18.95, 9781475997132
(Reviewed: December, 2013)

A valuable contribution to the history of WWII, this in-depth memoir chronicles the air war over Japan. More than a narrative of one man’s harrowing experiences during his 28 bombing missions on a B29 Superfortress, it contains a wealth of essential information about the military operation that decimated Japan’s war arsenal and defenses.

Staff Sergeant Herbert Greer was a 23-year-old, newly married, “frightened boy” from a little town in the Pacific Northwest when he was stationed on Guam. His diary of his service as the radio operator on bombing flights is precisely detailed, also augmented and enriched by his recollections six decades later, as spoken to his son, Ron Greer. Co-author Mike Wicks shows a fine editorial hand in stitching those strands together to provide background to the wartime events that Greer witnessed.

Military buffs will be interested in the development of Boeing’s fabled aircraft, since its enhanced ability in range and bomb capacity made a crucial difference in the war’s course. Even general readers will be impressed by the levels of training the flight crew of the City of Monroe Superfortress maintained.

The crew endured 14-hour flights in excruciatingly tight quarters, often encountering severe weather fronts, before reaching their destination. Once they arrived, they were in extreme peril from flak, fighter and suicide planes, and firestorms that arose and engulfed the plane from the havoc they had created below. Greer recalls “the remarkable stench… the smell of burning flesh” that rose and permeated the plane after a bombing. Equally horrifying was the Japanese military’s practice of summarily beheading captured Allied soldiers, a fact that haunted airmen who faced the option of parachuting from a disabled aircraft.

Greer’s recollections and insights about the members of his squadron and their tight camaraderie add considerable dramatic suspense to this compelling narrative. The book will hold great appeal for WWII veterans and their descendants, as well as general readers with an interest in this fearsome war.

BlueInk Heads-Up: Those interested in military history of any epoch will also find much to intrigue them here, especially since the text includes black and white archival photos and a bibliography of 47 web sites.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

Author’s Current Residence
Cabot, Arizona

Source: BlueInk Reviews