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Nothing Like an Ocean: Stories (Kentucky Voices)


Nothing Like an Ocean: Stories (Kentucky Voices) Cover

ISBN13: 9780813125404
ISBN10: 0813125405
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Publisher Comments:

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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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

KatDenza, April 13, 2009 (view all comments by KatDenza)
Jim Tomlinson’s stories in his collection Nothing Like an Ocean and the characters who inhabit them run as deep as the ocean. There’s something endearing about these people struggling to get by, get past, get closer. Tomlinson’s writing is smooth, his worlds easy to enter.

My favorites were the title story, Angel, His Rabbit, and Kyle McKell, Overburden, and A Male Influence in the House. Perhaps they stood out for me because Tomlinson does not shield his readers from the uncomfortable, or the uneasiness of despair. He doesn’t shield us from three quietly broken adults all complicit in a child’s death, doesn’t shield us from a soldier’s brokenness and anger, doesn’t shield us from the murder of whole mountain tops and all the life reliant on those ecosystems, doesn’t shield us from the horror of a young man poisoning himself in an attempt to feel something other than his lonely anguish.

There are no neat, happy endings but therein lies the veracity of this collection. And sometimes Tomlinson’s endings are spot-on gorgeous such as the one in Overburden, juxtaposed as it is against so much destruction:

“Inside Sarah will tell him that her labor has started, early pains, but unmistakable. There’s no need to rush, she’ll say, but they shouldn’t delay, either, getting to the hospital. It’s only a matter of time. Yes, it’s five weeks early, maybe six, but their future, she’ll assure him, is most certainly happening now.”
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Product Details

Tomlinson, Jim
University Press of Kentucky
Short Stories (single author)
Stories (single author)
City and town life - Kentucky
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Kentucky Voices
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.26x6.50x.74 in. .89 lbs.

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Nothing Like an Ocean: Stories (Kentucky Voices) New Hardcover
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Product details 163 pages University Press of Kentucky - English 9780813125404 Reviews:
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