Random House: 4/22/2014
Hardcover, 240 pages
From the author of the beloved novel The Giant’s House—finalist for the National Book Award—comes a beautiful new story collection, her first in twenty years. Laced through with the humor, the empathy, and the rare and magical descriptive powers that have led Elizabeth McCracken’s fiction to be hailed as “exquisite” (The New York Times Book Review), “funny and heartbreaking” (The Boston Globe), and “a true marvel” (San Francisco Chronicle), these nine vibrant stories navigate the fragile space between love and loneliness. In “Property,” selected by Geraldine Brooks for The Best American Short Stories, a young scholar, grieving the sudden death of his wife, decides to refurbish the Maine rental house they were to share together by removing his landlord’s possessions. In “Peter Elroy: A Documentary by Ian Casey,” the household of a successful filmmaker is visited years later by his famous first subject, whose trust he betrayed. In “The Lost & Found Department of Greater Boston,” the manager of a grocery store becomes fixated on the famous case of a missing local woman, and on the fate of the teenage son she left behind. And in the unforgettable title story, a family makes a quixotic decision to flee to Paris for a summer, only to find their lives altered in an unimaginable way by their teenage daughter’s risky behavior.
In Elizabeth McCracken’s universe, heartache is always interwoven with strange, charmed moments of joy—an unexpected conversation with small children, the gift of a parrot with a bad French accent—that remind us of the wonder and mystery of being alive. Thunderstruck & Other Stories shows this inimitable writer working at the full height of her powers.
Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken is a very highly recommended collection of nine short stories. Oh my goodness - read this exquisitely crafted collection!
McCracken’s short stories in this collection include:
Something Amazing - one mother grieves the loss of her daughter years before while another has two delinquent sons
Property - a man moves into a rented house thinking it was furnished with the owner's discarded possessions.
Some Terpsichore - an abusive former lover is recalled with nostalgia and pain.
Juliet - librarians react to the murder of one of their patrons
The House of Two Three-Legged Dogs - a man learns his son has broken his trust
Hungry - a woman cares for her granddaughter while her son lies in the hospital
The Lost & Found Department of Greater Boston - deals with how a memory can be viewed differently by different people
Peter Elroy: A Documentary by Ian Casey - a dying man visits a former friend
Thunderstruck - a father and mother struggle to be good parents for their daughter only to then have to deal with the brain injury resulting from her actions
All of the stories feature a slightly oblique point-of-view, as if the normal world is just ever-so-subtly tilted but enough to change perceptions into a reality that seems far removed from the ordinary. McCracken's extraordinary writing ability helps propel the stories forward even as they seem off kilter with life's ironies. She manages to capture despair, tenderness, outrage, and hopefulness, with her keen insight into human behavior and emotions. Everyone is coping with something with various degrees of success, while memory plays tricks on more than one character in this volume.
Some of these short stories were previously published in Granta, Ploughshares, Esquire, Zoetrope: All-Story, The Pushcart Prize, and The Best American Stories.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House for review purposes.