Synopses & Reviews
In the tradition of Lorrie Moore, Claire Vaye Watkins, and Rebecca Lee, this debut story collection cuts into the sometimes dark heart of the American family
From the tense territory of a sagging, grand porch in Texas to a gated community in steamy Thailand to a lonely apartment in nondescript suburbia, these linked stories unwind the lives of three families as they navigate ever-shifting landscapes. Wry and sharp, dark and subversive, they keep watch as these characters make the choices that will change the course of their lives and run into each other in surprising, unforgettable ways. The Bowmans are declining Texas gentry, heirs to an airline fortune, surrounded by a patriarch's stuffed trophies and lost dreams. They will each be haunted by the past as they strive to escape its force. The Fosters are diplomats’ kids who might as well be orphans. Jill and Maizie grow up privileged amid poverty, powerless to change the lives of those around them and uncertain whether they have the power to change their own. The Guzmans have moved between Colombia and the United States for two generations, each seeking opportunity for the next, only to find that the American dream can be as crushing as it is elusive. Amy Parker's debut collection considers--with an unfailingly observant eye--our failures and our successes, our fractures and our connections, our impact and our evanescence. She marks herself a worthy heir to the long tradition of smart women casting cool and careful glances at the American middle class.
The monkeys seals elephants pangolins sunfish and domestic pets of Parker's wonderful collection of linked stories offer sublime metaphors and splendid foils for the floundering adults as prone to moments of astonishing cruelty as the beasts are to sudden vengeance. Characters include sisters Carline and Cissy Bowman whose family spends a fortune to ransom the father out of Thailand in "The White Elephant"; another pair of sisters Jill and Maizie are daughters of diplomats stationed in Ching Mai and who venture out of their compound in "Rainy Season." Other stories involve a road trip to catch a lover ("The Balcony"); Jill and Maizie visiting a Thai orphanage ("Endangered Creatures") and Carline and Cissy dealing with memories of their mother's bout with cancer ("Catastrophic Molt"). More than the dissatisfied and guilty adults Parker's sympathies lie with the children who with preternatural calm and piercing devotion survive early formative ruptures that will haunt them. Parker's sentences are clear polished finely faceted gems the images incandescent and precise the tone balanced between the hypnotic and the absurd. Drawing out the implacable connections between beauty and danger between love and pain each individual story delivers a final punch of surprise both unpremeditated and yet perfect "whole and alive in the way that only children and animals seem to be." It's to Parker's credit that the collection feels as complete as a novel a journey transporting readers from the exotic to the familiar leaving them blinking dry mouthed and changed. Agent: Ellen Levine Trident Media Group. (Feb.) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
"Reading Beasts and Children
, I was struck not only by Amy Parker's incisive and skillfully crafted sentences but by the depth and integrity with which she treats every one of her characters. A beautiful and engaging debut." – Molly Antopol, author of The Unamericans
“Intense, beautiful, and true, the stories in Beasts and Children speak to that catastrophe known as childhood: the loneliness and fleeting camaraderies; the perilous gaps of adult attention and soul-saving intimacy with the natural world. In her remarkable debut, Amy Parker proves herself an unflinching, passionate, and profoundly humane writer, even as she holds a knife to your heart.” –-Michelle Huneven, author of Blame and others
“Amy Parker's stories are thrillingly self-possessed. They stand perfectly poised, like balancing artists, between the lyrical and the no-nonsense, the impassioned and the restrained. She has a gift for uncloaking the mysteries of her characters, particularly the children, who themselves struggle to uncloak the mysteries of the great big world of other minds into which they've been born: friends and grown-ups, strangers and parents, humans and animals alike. I was moved and fascinated by this book. I'll be first in line to read her next.” – Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Brief History of the Dead and others
In the tradition of Lorrie Moore, Claire Vaye Watkins, and Rebecca Lee, this debut linked-story collection cuts into the sometimes dark heart of the American family.
About the Author
AMY PARKER was born in Okinawa, Japan, and spent most of her childhood on diplomatic and military compounds overseas. She returned to the United States after her high school graduation and attended Indiana University, where she studied comparative literature. She won a Michener fellowship in fiction from the University of Texas, Austin. Afterward, she spent four years doing intensive monastic practice at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, the oldest Soto Zen monastery in the United States, and at Green Gulch Farm and Zen Center in Mill Valley, California. She received lay ordination in the Soto Zen lineage in 2007. She left the monastery for the Iowa Writers Workshop, from which she graduated in 2012. She lives in Iowa City with her son.