Synopses & Reviews
Elissa Schappell’s Use Me introduced us to a writer of extraordinary talent, whose “sharp, beautiful, and off-kilter debut” (Jennifer Egan) garnered critical acclaim and captivated readers. In Blueprints for Building Better Girls, her highly anticipated follow-up, she has crafted another provocative, keenly observed, and wickedly smart work of fiction that maps America’s shifting cultural landscape from the late 1970s to the present day.
In these eight darkly funny linked stories, Schappell delves into the lives of an eclectic cast of archetypal female characters—from the high school slut to the good girl, the struggling artist to the college party girl, the wife who yearns for a child to the reluctant mother— to explore the commonly shared but rarely spoken of experiences that build girls into women and women into wives and mothers. In “Monsters of the Deep,” teenage Heather struggles to balance intimacy with a bad reputation; years later in “I’m Only Going to Tell You This Once,” she must reconcile her memories of the past with her role as the mother of an adolescent son. In “The Joy of Cooking,” a phone conversation between Emily, a recovering anorexic, and her mother explores a complex bond; in “Elephant” we see Emily’s sister, Paige, finally able to voice her ambivalent feelings about motherhood to her new best friend, Charlotte. And in “Are You Comfortable?” we meet a twenty-one-year-old Charlotte cracking under the burden of a dark secret, the effects of which push Bender, a troubled college girl, to the edge in “Out of the Blue into the Black.” Weaving in and out of one another’s lives, whether connected by blood, or friendship, or necessity, these women create deep and lasting impressions. In revealing all their vulnerabilities and twisting our preconceived notions of who they are, Elissa Schappell, with dazzling wit and poignant prose, has forever altered how we think about the nature of female identity and how it evolves.
"This raw and engaging collection, Schappell's second (after Use Me), follows a cast of girls and women as they navigate relationships with each other, their mothers, and men across several decades. The strongest stories are those about gutsy girls who aren't 'afraid to throw the trick,' as one character's gymnastics coach describes her in 'Out of the Blue and into the Black.' Schappell endeavors to show the complex vulnerabilities behind some of the choices made by girls casually judged as sluts, as in 'Monsters of the Deep' and 'I'm Only Going to Tell You This Once,' and this is where she is at her best; less successful, by comparison, are the more diffuse stories that depict the dynamics between mothers and daughters, wives and husbands. Each story adds new perspectives of characters or events chronicled earlier in the book, allowing Schappell to create a bigger, more textured and complicated world than is usually found in collections. This, combined with the energy of the writing and the dark wit of these characters, will endear the book to Schappell's audience and fans of Lorrie Moore and Maile Meloy. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Author of Use Me, Elissa Schappell's extraordinary book, Blueprints for Building Better Girls, is a brilliantly rendered collection of short stories.
From the acclaimed author of Use Me
, eight provocative and darkly funny linked stories that explore the commonly shared, but rarely spoken of experiences that build girls into women and women into wives and mothers, mapping America’s shifting cultural landscape from the late 1970s to the present day.
In Blueprints for Building Better Girls, Schappell’s first work of fiction since her celebrated debut Use Me —a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year, and a New York Times Notable book—she delves into the lives of an eclectic cast of archetypal female characters, including the high school slut, the party girl, the reluctant mother, and the anorexic daughter, twisting our pre-conceived notions of who these women are, as they make unexpected and wonderful visits to each other’s stories.
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.
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.
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.