Synopses & Reviews
The small miracles of our day-to-day lives are on captivating display in this unforgettable collection by Pulitzer Prize winner Carol Shields
Various Miracles brings together twenty-one short stories, modern parables that illuminate the mysteries of everyday existence.
In the title story, four strangers on a bus are all reading the same book. In “Fragility,” Ivy’s husband reflects on their marriage, the death of their young son, Christopher, and the plane ride that will deliver them to a new life.
From “The Metaphor Is Dead – Pass It On” to “Home” to “Others”—in which a couple’s act of generosity is repaid in annual Christmas cards with no return address—this collection is by turns witty, inventive, and moving. Whether portraying a violinist yearning to break free of overprotective parents or an elderly widow mowing her lawn to the thunderous timpani of memory, Carol Shields depicts the struggles of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. It’s a world where magic coexists with reality, and where leaps of faith and acts of kindness create their own miracles.
“Carol Shields’ stories have given me happiness, not just pleasure. They’re prismatic; they delight me at first by the clear and simple elegance with which they are made, then there’s something so bountiful and surprising, like beautiful broken light.” —Alice Munro
“In [Carol Shields’s] hands we believe anything can happen.” —The Guardian
“Carol Shields is a brilliant writer. The stories mirror our lives in all the closest and most intimate ways and at the same time are entertaining—quite wickedly entertaining.” —Elizabeth Jolley
“These are stories to learn from—about the amazing power of language to recreate life on the page, and about life itself. Carol Shields is a marvelous writer—perceptive, witty, ironic and tender—whose poetic and analytical gifts make Various Miracles a dazzling collection.” —Isabel Huggan
The novels and stories of Carol Shields answer a daunting question: What makes a life? Her characters, from the unforgettable Tom and Fay of The Republic of Love
to the vivid characters of Shields’s short stories, are drawn so perceptively as to become real. Shields once wrote of “the way a human life drains toward one revealing scene”—and these novels and story collections capture entire existences.
Shields’s characters lead ordinary lives of extraordinary variety and emotional richness, crystallized by the precise eye of this award-winning fiction writer. Her great talents have been recognized with the Pulitzer Prize, Canada’s Governor General’s Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the UK’s Orange Prize, and many other honors.
About the Author
Carol Shields (1935–2003) was born in Oak Park, Illinois. She studied at Hanover College, the University of Exeter in England, and the University of Ottawa. In 1957, she married Donald Shields and moved to Canada permanently. She taught at the University of Ottawa, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Manitoba, and served as chancellor of the University of Winnipeg. She wrote ten novels and three short story collections, in addition to poetry, plays, criticism, and a biography of Jane Austen. Her novel The Stone Diaries won the Pulitzer Prize, the Governor General’s Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award; it was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Shields was further recognized with a Canada Council Major Award, two Canadian National Magazine Awards, the Canadian Authors Association Award, and countless other prizes and honors.