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People I Wanted to Be: Storiesby Gina Ochsner
Synopses & Reviews
In her eagerly anticipated collection, Gina Ochsner deftly examines the harrowing moments after a life or a love slips away and discovers that the human heart can be large enough for anything.
In "Halves of a Whole," twin sisters learn the trade of preparing bodies for burial in their Hungarian parents" funeral home but are ill-prepared to handle a death of their own. In the humorous "Last Words of the Mynah Bird," a desperately disgruntled husband buys a talking bird that he hopes will restore love to his marriage. A Russian couple mourns their infertility by bidding farewell to ghosts of the children they never had in "Articles of Faith." And in "The Fractious South," featured in the New Yorker, a young man finds solace and meaning in fishing.
Emotionally resonant and witty, these stories are rendered with depth and a strong understanding of human forgiveness, as well as an unerring belief in small, daily miracles.
"In this offbeat, affecting follow-up to her debut collection, The Necessary Grace to Fall, Ochsner assembles a host of oddballs whose touchingly resilient hopes and small leaps of faith fly in the face of almost certain disappointment. Set mostly in Russia and Oregon, the collection is steeped in a perversely funny Slavic fatalism woven through with strands of Pacific Northwestern unflappability. Ochsner's misfits range from a Czech illustrator whose rebellious sketches come to life and won't stay put, to a young woman who does a brisk business in catapulting strangers' 'wounded, rusty' hearts over her back fence and into an abandoned dump next door. When the tone shifts abruptly from carefully observed realism to clever fantasticality, the transitions between stories can be jarring, but incongruity — the tension between small, improbable miracles and the damp, chilly world in which they suddenly occur — form the luminous heart of this collection. In 'When the Dark Is Light Enough,' an old woman, beaten to death by her nephew, lies stiff on a slab in the morgue, 'caught smiling in spite of a mouth full of broken teeth.... Her arms had been flung open. They'd looked like wings.' Ochsner knows that vindication and inspiration often come from unlikely places, and she can capture this contradiction gorgeously in a gesture. Agent, Julie Barer." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Elegantly unsettling fiction....Ochsner's keen eye for the macabre is frequently evident here. Eleven stories that possess restraint and edge: a powerful combination." Kirkus Reviews
"Assured and humane....Here are stories full of unexpected grace, the strange sadness of beauty, and magical possibility — tales rich with the quiet abundance of life." Chang Rae Lee
"Ochsner is the real deal — a writer who knows some things and has seen a lot, and fearlessly puts it all on the page. These [stories] will make you grateful — for the joys of your own life, the skills of Gina Oschner, and the simple pleasure of reading." Chris Offutt
"Gina Ochsner's new collection of stories will be among the very best this year, or any other year for that matter. She manages, with almost every story, to capture our sundry human moments and make raw and unforgettable music of them." Colum McCann
"In these remarkable stories, which draw from folklore and myths, Ochsner's flawed, wholly sympathetic characters miraculously stumble into small moments, shaped with a delicious sense of the absurd, which connect them to a world that's magical, merciful, and infinite." Booklist (Starred Review)
Gina Ochsner's award-winning, highly acclaimed stories have appeared in such publications as The New Yorker and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. In her eagerly anticipated new collection, Ochsner deftly examines the harrowing moments after a life or love slips away and discovers that the human heart can be large enough for anything.
A Russian couple come to accept their infertility by bidding farewell tot he ghosts of the children they never had. A disgruntled husband buys a talking bird that he hopes will restore love to his marriage. Twin sisters learn to prepare bodies for burial in their Hungarian parents' funeral home, but when faced with a death of their own, they must learn to prepare the soul. Glowing with warmth and sparkling with imagination, these stories are rendered with a deep understanding of human resilience as well as an unerring belief in small, daily miracles.
About the Author
Gina Ochsner's first collection, The Necessary Grace to Fall, won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction and was published by the University of Georgia Press. It also won the Oregon Book Award for Short Fiction and the PNBA award for short stories and was an Austin Chronicle Top Ten Pick. Ochsner lives in western Oregon with her husband and four children.
Table of Contents
Articles of Faith / 1 Last Words of the Mynah Bird / 17 How One Carries Another / 27 Halves of a Whole / 47 A Darkness Held / 67 The Hurler / 90 From the Fourth Row / 98 A Blessing / 119 When the Dark Is Light Enough / 135 Signs and Markings / 158 The Fractious South / 181 Acknowledgments / 203
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