“This is a pitch-perfect collection, searching and graceful, containing just the right mixture of intelligence and heart. The separate kingdoms Valerie Laken writes about are not only America and Russia, the countries where her stories take place, but also the innermost minds of any two human beings, and the different ways we experience the world before and after a catastrophe. All of the characters in this book are missing something deeply important to them – children or pets, spells of time or pieces of their own bodies. In Laken’s skillful and compassionate hands, though, they are never less than whole.”
"A work of daunting versatility and technical skill, the product of a writer absolutely at home in the language and working vigorously within both new and old forms... This is a writer of wonderful gifts."
"Valerie Laken proves herself again to be a writer of vast compassion, and dead-on accuracy, in these stories. Separate Kingdoms is a travel through the human psyche, but it is so rawly full of vivid places and pitch-perfect dialogue and sensory detail that you know you are in the visceral world of the characters as well as their minds. There are only eight stories here, but each one is so rich, so textured and nuanced, that I felt I'd dwelled among these familiar strangers in their kingdoms for a sumptuous period of years, and yet I started the collection again as soon as I had finished it, recalling things I felt an urgent need to read again. Valerie Laken takes aim at the human experience, and does not shoot. Instead, she steps forward, into places we wouldn't dare, and lays them bare for the reader. This is life-changing work, the kind of reading one longs for and so rarely finds."