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Theft    by N. S. Köenings order for
by N. S. Köenings
Order:  USA  Can
Back Bay, 2008 (2008)

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*   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

N. S. Köenings' Theft is made up of five short stories: the title story; Pearls to Swine; Wondrous Strange; Sisters for Shama; and Setting up Shop. In each story, something is taken from the main character, whether it be material possessions, ideals, or even a sense of self.

Köenings writes in a contemporary style, which while it succeeds in bringing out the despair the characters all feel over their loss, can throw the reader off a little. Her writing is very poetic and vivid, and her characters are well-formed, but each story is almost a slice of life type tale, except that readers are given enough exposition to have a good idea of the situation's context. However, there is no resolution in any of the stories, and some are even missing a climax, leaving the reader wanting and confused. In Theft, for instance, we are following two characters – Lucy who has lost her luggage on the last day of her African vacation, and Ezra, a bus tout who, after being beaten up for the luggage theft, returns home to find his village has been all but destroyed. All of a sudden, we stop following Lucy and never learn her fate, although we do get a sense of what will happen with Ezra.

Of all the stories, Setting up Shop, the last in the collection, is probably the one that follows most closely a typical plot format, making it more accessible to readers. In this story, Zulfa is torn between wanting to travel while being her own person or becoming the fourth wife to Masoud, her business partner. Trying to make up her mind, Zulfa causes chaos for Masoud and only realizes what she wants after she is forced to leave the village. This short story does make a satisfying ending to the collection, but it would have been nicer if more stories had a recognizable conclusion, especially Wondrous Strange - which had very engaging exposition and rising action, but the climax was wanting.

For fans of contemporary short stories, Theft by N. S. Köenings would be a good pick. However, Theft will only confuse those of us who like short stories to follow a more traditional format.

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