Gifts from an Empty Suitcase and Other Short Stories: And Twenty Poems presents stories and poems about our turbulent, modern times—a world filled with tragedy and a growing refugee population. Each story centers around a disturbing event in recent decades and is set in various locations such as Egypt, Afghanistan, Michigan and Australia. The story “An Ethereal Mishap” includes a description of Japanese culture. The story “Luna,” set in the Australian outback, describes the reaction of an indigenous Australian to the recent Gulf war in Iraq. The characters are incredibly life-like so that the reader forgets the book is fiction. The fate of birds is also interwoven within these tales of human joy and sadness. The poems often complement the stories, with the last poem describing Dunedin, New Zealand, where the author now lives.