From the jacket:
Claire is magnetic. On the cusp of adulthood and letting go of her adolescence one miserable responsibility at a time, she’s moved from London to San Francisco to work toward her PhD and minor in cheap whiskey, pour-over coffee, and guys who can’t be bothered to shower. When she finds out she’s pregnant by a heartsick ex-boyfriend, the solution seems clear, if only to her.
Kira is a talented thirteen-year-old Russian gymnast who leaves her traditional family to travel to America.
Elise and Jenni, two Australian high school students, seek asylum from the hooking up and heavy drinking they’ve been doing for years by reenrolling in their childhood sleepaway camp.
Over the course of nine loosely connected stories, Hot Little Hands introduces us to young women, at once clever and naïve, who struggle to navigate the chronic uncertainty and very real dangers that come with being impatient for the future and reluctant to leave childhood behind.
Ulman absolutely nails it in this debut short story collection. Her characters are so vividly imagined, incredibly relatable, flawed, and full of angst. I do not read a lot of short story collections, but Hot Little Hands has me both regretting and rethinking that habit. The beginning of each of the nine stories brought with it the excitement you feel when you start a really great new book; each one ending with a satisfying, and sometimes extremely surprising conclusion.
As always, I’m going to get into more detail after the jump. Continue on at your own discretion.
Every story is so unique, that I did not realize until after I was reading through it again in preparation for this review, that several of them center around the same character. While Claire is a recurring character throughout the book, each time she is introduced we are reading about a very different experience in her life. The fact that I read her as a new voice each time speaks to Ulman’s talent in capturing the way we are shaped by our past experiences. With each event, we grow and change, we can never be the same as we were before it.
While I enjoyed all of these stories, two in particular stuck out to me. In Warm-Ups, Kira is a talented young gymnast, who has just been presented with the opportunity to travel to America with her coach and a few other team members to perform at a conference. While her parents and grandparents are completely against it, the coach ultimately convinces them to allow her to go. The excitement leading up to and during their trip is so palpable, and these girls are so endearing. I could not have predicted the end of this story with a crystal ball, and I’m still reeling from it. I will likely never forget Kira and her friends.
My favorite story in the entire collection is the last one, Your Charm Won’t Help You Here. This is one of Claire’s stories, and in it, she is being held up in customs by TSA at an airport in Philadelphia after an eleven hour flight from Istanbul. She’s ultimately trying to make her way back to San Francisco, where she is currently living. Despite the fact that she is a London native, she spends the majority of her time traveling around the world, with her home base in California. After several hours of questioning, TSA charges her with a pre-crime (no idea this was a thing that existed) of the intent to migrate and she ends up in jail for the evening, where her ordeal is far from over. This one stirred up a lot of different emotions in me, the most prominent being anger and fear. I was on the edge of my seat up until the very end of this fast paced, and oftentimes frustrating tale.
I started reading this one on my birthday, hence the cinnamon rolls and festive decor.
Final Thoughts: Everyone should read this book. Whether you’re a parent, or a young adult, man or woman, it does not matter. I think this has an important message for everyone, and gives a no punches pulled look into the mind of a girl on the cusp of adulthood. I wish I had read this when I was younger, and I’m so glad I read it now. I’ve become a lifelong fan of Ulman, and cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.
Favorite Characters: Kira, Amelia, Claire
I received a copy of Hot Little Hands from Random House LibraryThing giveaway in exchange for an honest review.