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Stop That Girl: A Novel in Storiesby Elizabeth McKenzie
Synopses & Reviews
From the first story of Elizabeth McKenzie’s beguiling debut collection, we are drawn into the offbeat worldview of sharp-eyed, intrepid Ann Ransom. Stop That Girl chronicles Ann’s colorful coming-of-age travails, from her childhood in a disjointed family through her tender adolescence and beyond.
In the captivating title story, our eight-year-old heroine is sent by her pregnant mother on a whirlwind jaunt to Europe with her iconoclast grandmother– known even to her family as Dr. Frost–and comes home to find her family completely reconfigured. In “SOS,” Dr. Frost returns to haunt Ann in college, her visit colliding with a famous poet’s appearance on campus. “We Know Where We Are, But Not Why” is set during a summer at the Grand Canyon and contrasts Ann’s angst-ridden yearning for a philosophical schoolmate back home to her mother’s happier pursuits of a lively Australian activist.
Along the way, Ann discovers the absurdities that lurk around every corner of a young woman’s life, by way of oafish neighbors, overzealous boyfriends, prurient vegetable salesmen, and sour landlords.
In these keenly funny, highly original stories, Ann and the people around her are forced to reassess their complex relationships and, along the way, find happiness on the brink of calamity. Stop That Girl is a brilliant examination of the exigencies of love and the fragile fabric of family, and heralds the emergence of a remarkable new voice in fiction.
"Makeshift families, ill-advised relationships and a series of nonhomes shape McKenzie's wry, clever debut, a novel in nine stories. The tidy world of Ann Ransom, a precocious eight-year-old, is turned upside down when her mother, Helen, marries real estate broker Roy Weeks in the book's title story, and Ann is briskly shuttled off for a holiday in Europe with her eccentric, emotionally exhausting grandmother, Dr. Frost. Ann weathers the shift and learns to appreciate likable Roy, but must cope with her mother's increasing reclusiveness. Eight years later, in the perfectly pitched 'We Know Where We Are but Not Why,' her mother finally experiments with happiness — 'I use self-discipline to pick you up from school on time.... Why shouldn't I make myself be happy?' — but the result is a disastrous summer vacation at the Grand Canyon. Ann gets the chance to escape her frustrating family in 'Look Out, Kids,' when the semi-apocryphal stories she tells a UC Santa Cruz financial aid officer convince him to give her a full scholarship. In the collection's gem, 'S.O.S,' Dr. Frost returns to haunt Ann in college, the visit coinciding with a campus appearance by Allen Ginsberg. Despite her desperate childhood desire for normalcy, as Ann grows up she finds herself leading an unconventional life that curiously mirrors her mother's. McKenzie's humor, Ann's touching bravado and the collection's subtle evocation of emotional undercurrents make this a poignant, incisive debut. Agent, Kimberly Witherspoon. (Feb. 15)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"From childhood to adolescence, from college to failed marriage, Ann tells us of her eventful life in a matter-of-fact, deadpan voice — often wildly funny but just as often thoughtful and sad — that will appeal to both adults and YAs." Michael Cart, Booklist
"[A]lthough Ann is sometimes baffled by the choices of her loved ones, she does her best to respect and honor them. This tendency, along with her humor, loyalty, and humility, makes Ann a completely likable character in a completely likable coming-of-age novel." Eleanor J. Bader, Library Journal
"A fine first book, alive with energy, wit, and real promise." Kirkus Reviews
This beguiling collection of prize-winning stories chronicles the colorful travails of Ann Ransom, from her childhood with her disjointed family through a tender adolescence and beyond.
About the Author
Elizabeth McKenzie's stories have appeared in Pushcart Prize 2001, The Best American Nonrequired Reading (2002), TriQuarterly, The Witness, The Threepenny Review, and ZYZZYVA, and her work has been recorded for NPR's Selected Shorts. A former writing fellow at Stanford and staff editor at The Atlantic Monthly, she lives in Santa Cruz, California.
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