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Nothing Like an Ocean: Stories (Kentucky Voices)by Jim Tomlinson
Synopses & Reviews
Jim Tomlinsons previous book of short stories, Things Kept, Things Left Behind, won the prestigious Iowa Short Fiction Award and received enthusiastic reviews. The New York Times compared the strong sense of place in Tomlinsons writing to that found in the works of Flannery OConnor and Alice Munro. The stories in his new collection, Nothing Like An Ocean, also reflect Tomlinsons awareness of place, revisiting the fictional town of Spivey, a community in rural Appalachia where the characters confront difficult circumstances and, with quiet dignity, try to do what is right.
In the title story, Tomlinson explores themes of forgiveness and acceptance in the lives of two characters, Alton Wood, a high school math teacher isolated by grief, and his sister Fran, who is emotionally paralyzed by her part in a tragic death. The two take halting steps back into the world after Alton receives an anonymous invitation to a church singles dance. These themes also underlie “Angel, His Rabbit, and Kyle McKell,” which tells of Dempsies evening with two menher volatile boyfriend and the recently returned Iraq War amputee whose secret she has been keeping.
Loss and the inevitability of change recur in Tomlinsons stories. In “Overburden,” Ben, a man simultaneously contemplating AARP membership and impending fatherhood, travels with his wife, Sarah, back to eastern Kentucky to visit the oak tree that was essential to their courtship, only to find the site as barren and featureless as the moon, a casualty of mountaintop removal mining. “So Exotic” draws us into the worn environs of Ritas Huddle In Café, where the owner becomes the confidant of Quilla, a mousy bank teller who blossoms as the muse of an eccentric artist from Belarus.
The eleven stories in Nothing Like An Ocean evoke a strong sense of small-town Kentucky life, finding humor in the residents foibles while never diminishing their inner lives. Tomlinsons masterful fiction captures light and dark moments, moments that are foreign yet deeply familiar, as his characters seek redemption and sometimes find unexpected grace.
About the Author
Jim Tomlinson's first book, Things Kept, Things Left Behind, received the 2006 Iowa Short Fiction Award, and its title story appeared in New Stories from the South: The Years Best, 2008. His work has been short-listed for inclusion in Best American Short Stories, 2007 and Best American Mystery Stories, 2007, and he has received grants from the Kentucky Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Tomlinson lives in Berea, Kentucky.
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