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The stories in A Near-Perfect Gift revolve around the often hardscrabble small-town life in one rural village. Like any other community inhabited by the human race, it's a place where the banal and the improbable coalesce, a place with its share of common tragedies and uncommon madmen: some howl at the moon, while others turn out to be heroes. There are the two old ladies down the street who might be witches and must be exorcised, and the man who plucks chickens for a living. It is within the perimeter of this offbeat microcosm of the world that seemingly small questions—often the kind that children ask, arising from a child's imagined understanding of how the adult world works—assume an eerie portent: Was that a snake beneath the woodpile? Could a pregnant bat climb out of a hole in the ground? The answers never cease to surprise.
"Characters love, work, suffer in a bleak town in a rural surround. We cannot forget them or their harsh home. Among stories that are sensitive renderings of people and places and plights, "Ghosts" stands out as a tour de force: a novel in four pages."
—Edith Pearlman, author of How to Fall
"I read A Near-Perfect Gift from start to end without stopping, and, when I finished, found myself sitting in my darkened office, infused with an unexpected sense of peace."
—Eileen Pollack, author of Paradise, New York
"[Kinder] writes with the x-ray vision of a Sherwood Anderson, and with the insight of a Freudian analyst, an interpreter of dreams, in language that could be as well suited to the traditional folktale or the hometown newspaper as to poetry of the French surrealists. Here is a collection of short fiction for our times: a mirror held up to the homely details, reflecting back to us the wild insides."
—Laura Kasischke, author of White Bird in a Blizzard and The Life Before Her Eyes
"The stories of R. M. Kinder's A Near-Perfect Gift are ordinary in that they are rooted in the mundane reality of a rural small town, but extraordinary in what they wring from that unexceptional situation. There's a taste of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg here, and more than a touch of his passionate insight."
—Madison Smartt Bell, author of Anything Goes and The Stone That the Builder Refused
"These are delightful stories. Kinder's characters and situations are rendered with subtle and generous empathy, and in a wonderfully lucid, sure-footed style. A thoroughgoing pleasure."
—Michael Griffith, author of Spikes and Bibliophilia
"Ordinary people come before us here in such touching and believable depth as to conceal their source in the author's extraordinarily humane imagination. We've all been impressed by writers we'd not much care to meet. Kinder is an impressive one I very much would."
". . . as moving and redemptive as storytelling gets. . . . Kinder is as astute as [Sherwood] Anderson about human nature, and her characters are authentic and convincing. Life in Buxton, Missouri, is also tough: neighbors die, kids taunt simpletons, and frustrated women make things up. Their told lives embody one of the cardinal rules of imaginative writing: Everything is worthy of our attention. Moreover, one finds a leavening humor throughout R. M. Kinder's work, and an acceptance of life's inevitable sorrows. Together, these qualities infuse the stories in A Near-Perfect Gift with equanimity and grace."
—Catherine Browder, New Letters