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One Dog Happy (John Simmons Short Fiction Award)by Molly Mcnett
Synopses & Reviews
In this award-winning debut collection, Molly McNett couples laugh-out-loud dialogue and wry observation reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor with disquieting strains of dashed hope, troubled sexuality, and disillusionment.
The adults in these stories can seem as hapless and helpless as the younger characters. Two neglected daughters use the language of clothes to cope with their parents’ divorce and their father’s mail-order bride. A young girl’s bizarre sexual fantasies help her gain control over the chaos of her family life. A gang of teenagers accuse a farmer of bestiality. A divorced father tries to create a pony-filled world that might appeal to his daughters. In the title story, Mr. Bob, the minister’s housesitter, loses a dog but finds someone to believe in. And in “Helping,” the darkest story in this amazing collection, Ruthie’s anger conquers her religious faith when she takes care of a severely disabled child.
We meet McNett’s endearing, often foolish characters at a point when their minds are open to manipulation by the people and events around them, and the conclusions they draw are heartbreaking: I am not allowed weakness; life treats people unequally; perhaps there is no God. Yet throughout they find quiet moments of possibility, courage, and a return to faith and comfort.
"Winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award, McNett's neat, chipper collection of seven stories uncovers surprising, tender moments in the lives of Midwestern farm dwellers. Gordon, the recently divorced, forlorn and none-too-clean bachelor protagonist of 'Wishbone,' has let himself and his old farm deteriorate to such a point that the goth girls on the school bus have started a wicked rumor about him and his ponies. 'Catalog Sales' finds two middle school — age sisters of divorced parents trying to navigate their painful adolescence while at the same time having to make the appalling acquaintance of their father's pretty, much-too-young-for-him Philippine fiance. McNett's enormously appealing title story pursues an elderly member of the church, Mr. Bob, as he botches the care of the minister's beloved, incontinent beagle while the minister and his family are away on vacation. Bob doesn't like or share the minister's sense of blessed entitlement, and he even concludes he is helping the minister's overburdened wife a favor when he loses the dog. There is graceful movement and candor to McNett's work, and a palpable sense of possibilities." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Molly McNett’s work has appeared in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005, Brain Child magazine, Missouri Review, Black Warrior Review, New England Review, New Letters, Crazyhorse, and Other Voices. She lives on a farm in northern Illinois with her husband and children.
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