Reviews

  • 2 Apr 2006

    praise for The Big Empty :
    “This book is a pleasure to read .... Although many of the selections are excerpts from longer works, for the most part they feel satisfyingly self-contained .... The volume as a whole .... is thoughtfully arranged .... These writers take unflinching looks at racism, the Vietnam War, rural poverty, environmental degradation, and other unflattering episodes in the state''s history. The book is nevertheless filled with humor .... [I]t's certain that readers will never look at a barbed-wire fence or a buffalo chip the same way again.”

    Bloomsbury Review
  • 1 Apr 2006

    praise for The Big Empty :
    “These essays are springs from which flows our collective identity .... Read The Big Empty slowly. Savor the depth of thought, the breadth of subjects, the richness of language. Distance surrounds us, and these Nebraska writers, 'who pass through it with open eyes,' as Ron Block says, open ours.”

    —Linda Read DeedsNebraska Life
  • 22 Nov 2005

    praise for This is Not the Tropics :
    “In the utterly remarkable debut collection, This is Not the Tropics, Ladette Randolph, in her fifteen hypnotic tales, offers up a clear-eyed, captivating portrait of the Plains marked by heartache, fear, loneliness and regret. A resigned housewife trapped in a loveless marriage, on the verge of fleeing town with a reliable, good-hearted married man, finds her best-laid plans unravel when her husband unexpectedly dies in "Billy". In the poignant, unnerving, "Hyacinths", an unsettling, unexpected pregnancy and the possibility of a church group's dubious intervention, causes a once cheerful mother to become an agent of order, rebelling against the hypocrisy of a town "fossilized in the past". A college student tasked with house-sitting her eccentric professor's home replete with pornographic art and mass-murderer coffee table books and his two melodramatic, lovesick dogs to her friends' mockery and chagrin ironically discovers that her seemingly normal friendships are more horrific and fake than the home which is pure, without pretense in the collection's gem, "The Girls". In a small Nebraska town, homegrown men rally for the annual "queen contest" serves as the hilarious backdrop for a daughter facing anxiety over her families' reaction to her upcoming nuptials to a black man, but in the end, finds herself surprised by her capacity to underestimate the ones she loves in "Miss Kielbasa". In these elegant tales, Randolph eschews Middle America stereotypes to reveal vivid, complex characters, compromised in love, family and society, battling tradition amidst reality to render these prairie city inhabitants with inexorable heart, compassion and truth. Quite honestly, this is the finest collection I've seen in years. Certainly, one could compare Miss Randolph's stories to Flannery O'Connor mixed with a little Lorrie Moore & Alice Munro. Her stories aren't flashy, over-indulgent, rather they are quiet and subtle and completely heartbreaking. These are normal people living normal lives and somehow, Randolph makes them extraordinary, memorable people.”

    —Felicia Sullivan, Black Spiral Notebook
  • 3 Apr 2005

    praise for A Different Plain :
    “This wonderful anthology brings together 25 contemporary Nebraska fiction writers and showcases some of the best emerging literary talent available to the reading public.... The Midwest has never been so well represented in contemporary fiction.... This book is a delightful read.”

    —Mike Nobles, Tulsa World
  • 23 Mar 2005

    praise for This is Not the Tropics :
    “In this collection, Randolph's stories are set in small towns in Nebraska and brim with timeless truths about love, insecurity, and the glue that holds relationships together. In "What She Knows" an unmarried and pregnant 22-year-old struggles with her options until realizing how much she already loves her unborn son, who she knows will have red hair and freckles, and play trombone "with gusto" in his grade-school band. In "Billy" a long-suffering wife's alcoholic husband dies before she can carry out her brave plan to leave him. Most stories have an obvious main theme and a subtle underlying one, providing an unexpected twist with surprising depth. In "Miss Kielbasa," for example, Randolph depicts a family's harried and hilarious participation in the town's annual drag queen contest; on the periphery lies the daughter's dread of telling her parents that her new boyfriend is black. From the wife who discovers her husband has a gay lover to the accordion player in a polka band, Randolph gets each and every character just right.”

    —Deborah Donovan, Booklist