The stories in A Near-Perfect Gift revolve around the often hardscrabble small-town life in one rural village. Like any other community inhabited by the human race, it's a place where the banal and the improbable coalesce, a place with its share of common tragedies and uncommon madmen: some howl at the moon, while others turn out to be heroes. There are the two old ladies down the street who might be witches and must be exorcised, and the man who plucks chickens for a living. It is within the perimeter of this offbeat microcosm of the world that seemingly small questions---often the kind that children ask, arising from a child's imagined understanding of how the adult world works---assume an eerie portent: Was that a snake beneath the woodpile? Could a pregnant bat climb out of a hole in the ground? The answers never cease to surprise.
"[Kinder] writes with the x-ray vision of a Sherwood Anderson, and with the insight of a Freudian analyst, an interpreter of dreams, in language that could be as well suited to the traditional folktale or the hometown newspaper as to poetry of the French surrealists. Here is a collection of short fiction for our times: a mirror held up to the homely details, reflecting back to us the wild insides."
---Laura Kasischke, MLFA judge
The stories in this quietly powerful collection explore the seen and unseen world in which we all live. I read A Near-Perfect Gift from start to end without stopping, and, when I finished, found myself sitting in my darkened office, infused with an unexpected sense of peace.
Kinder's prose is as sharp and detailed as her tales' world is spare and exacting.
—Notre Dame Review
Kinder is as astute as Anderson about human nature, and her characters are authentic and convincing. Life in Buxton, Missouri, is also tough: neighbors die, kids taunt simpletons, and frustrated women make things up. Their told lives embody one of the cardinal rules of imaginative writing: Everything is worthy of our attention. Moreover, one finds a leavening humor throughout R. M. Kinder's work, and an acceptance of life's inevitable sorrows. Together these qualities infuse the stories in A Near-Perfect Gift with equanimity and grace.
— Catherine Browder, New Letters
Kinder's distant, elegant prose affords her characters room to dwell comfortably both in and outside the realm of the expected.
—Jack Kaulfus, Arkansas Review
Kinder's achievement here is piecing together stories that span generations and perspectives, making the characters simultaneously realistic and ethereal, proving that each little town, no matter how similar each old house is on a stretch of country road, has its own set of fables and intricacies that make it like nowhere else on Earth.
—J. Albin Larson, Mid-American Review