Reviews for Table For Two

by Amor Towles

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

In his first collection, Towles sequel-izes his debut novel, Rules of Civility (2011), with a 200-page novella and adds six short fictions involving unlikely encounters and unexpected outcomes. Set in the late 1930s, the novella, Eve in Hollywood, extends the story of Evelyn Ross, nervy sidekick of Rules protagonist Katey Kontent. On a train from New York to Los Angeles, the flinty, facially scarred blond, impulsively rejecting a return to her home in Indiana, strikes up a friendship with widowed former homicide cop Charlie Granger. They meet months later in L.A. when Eve’s cutely met new friend, starlet Olivia de Havilland, is blackmailed over surreptitiously taken nude photos. In classic noir fashion, an untrustworthy man of significant girth is at the heart of the plot. The book’s other lively pairings include a used bookseller and a young would-be writer who finds his calling forging signatures of famous authors for him (Paul Auster plays a key role); a newly committed concertgoer and an older patron who drives him to distraction by secretly recording the music; and two travelers stranded at the airport who share a cab ride to a hotel, where one of them transforms from a harmless nice guy into a raging alcoholic and the other attempts to drag him away from the bar on desperately phoned orders from the man’s wife. Towles has fun leaping ahead with his narratives. In a cruel twist of fate, a peasant in late-czarist Russia pays a price for daring to profit from holding people’s places on excessively long food lines in Moscow. Towles sometimes lays on the philosophical wisdom and historical knowledge a bit, but the novella and all the stories are treated to his understated (and occasionally mischievous) irony. A sneakily entertaining assortment of tales. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.