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Thunderstruck and Other Storiesby Elizabeth McCracken
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"McCracken's short stories are like no others. Her distinctive voice, her slightly askew manner of looking at the world, her mix of mordant humor and tenderness, her sense of life's ironies, and the jolt of electricity at the end of each tale make her work arresting and memorable. In this collection of nine short narratives (McCracken's return to short fiction 20 years after Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry), a feckless, improvident father mourns the unwitting example he has set for his son; a grieving mother finds solace in a neighbor's child, while that child's mother is about to undergo a tragic loss; and a librarian has to live with a disastrous memory. In the title story, a father who must come to terms with his daughter's brain injury muses: 'Happiness was a narrow tank. You had to make sure that you cleared the lip.' These stories, set in France, Massachusetts, Maine, and Iowa, are macabre yet anchored by precise details and psychological insight; they turn on ironic twists of fate and seesaws of luck. Readers will enjoy reading them twice — the first time quickly, because the plots are mesmerizing and strange, and the second to relish the dozens of images, aperçus, and descriptions (a handsaw is 'a house key from a giant's pocket'; 'His hair looked like it had been combed with a piece of buttered toast'; 'Amazing how death made petty disappointments into operatic insults'). McCracken transforms life's dead ends into transformational visions. Agent; Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Elizabeth McCracken is one of my favorite writers. Or, to put it another way: I’ve read everything she’s written...and there’s nothing I haven’t liked and admired enormously....She writes with acuity, soul, and a kind of easy grace that probably kills her, about characters she has created to love....Thunderstruck showcases all the things this remarkable writer is so good at: the eccentric but illuminating metaphors, the deft characterization, the heart-lurching narrative development, the tenderness, the fantastic aphorisms....Anything new by her is an excuse for wild, drunken celebration.” Nick Hornby, The Believer
“McCracken writes gorgeously sharp and insistent prose; her stories dazzle, uniquely angled and original.” More
“[Elizabeth McCracken] writes sentences so beautiful you’ll want to stand up and applaud. I underlined so many phrases and details my copy is a mess, but that still didn’t keep me from lending it to my best friend....McCracken’s revelatory prose style makes it impossible for even the bleakest story lines to feel like anything short of a blessing.” Cosmopolitan
“There’s a strange magic...in Elizabeth McCracken’s work.” Reader’s Digest
“Magnetic....Anyone who enjoys short fiction will find pleasure and substance in McCracken’s witty, world-wise collection.” Library Journal
“Marvelously quirky, ironic, but, most of all, poignant...McCracken paints [her characters] with such rich detail that it feels as if we must know them.” Booklist
“Each of Thunderstruck’s nine stories is a storm: delightful and destructive, packed with electricity, fascinating to watch unfold from the safe harbor of a comfortable chair.” Salon
About the Author
Elizabeth McCracken is the author of An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, The Giant’s House, Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry, and Niagara Falls All Over Again. A former public librarian, she is now a faculty member at the University of Texas, Austin, and has received grants and awards from numerous organizations, including the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the American Academy in Berlin. Elizabeth is married to the novelist and illustrator Edward Carey.
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