Birds of America: Stories

Lorrie Moore, Author
Lorrie Moore, Author Alfred A Knopf Inc $23 (304p) ISBN 978-0-679-44597-5
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-312-24712-6
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-571-19727-9
Paperback - 291 pages - 978-0-312-24122-3
Paperback - 291 pages - 978-0-307-47496-4
Open Ebook - 180 pages - 978-0-307-81688-7
Hardcover - 291 pages - 978-0-571-26086-7
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Though the characters in these 12 stories are seen in such varied settings as Iowa, Ireland, Maryland, Louisiana and Italy, they are all afflicted with ennui, angst and aimlessness. They can't communicate or connect; they have no inner resources; they can't focus; they can't feel love. The beginning stories deal with women alienated from their own true natures but still living in the quotidian. Aileen in ""Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens,"" is unable to stop grieving over her dog's death, although she has a loving husband and daughter to console her. The collection's two male protagonists, a law professor in ""Beautiful Grade"" and a housepainter who lives with a blind man in ""What You Want to Do Fine,"" are just as disaffected and lonely in domestic situations. The stories move on, however, to situations in which life itself is askew, where a tumor grows in a baby's body (the detached recitation of ""People Like That Are The Only People Here"" makes it even more harrowing ). In ""Real Estate,"" a woman with cancer--after having dealt with squirrels, bats, geese, crows and a hippie intruder in her new house--kills a thief whose mind has run as amok as the cells in her body. Only a few stories conclude with tentative affirmation. ""Terrific Mother,"" which begins with the tragedy of a child's death, moves to a redemptive ending. In every story, Moore empowers her characters with wit, allowing their thoughts and conversation to sparkle with wordplay, sarcastic banter and idioms used with startling originality. No matter how chaotic their lives, their minds still operate at quip speed; the emotional impact of their inner desolation is expressed in gallows humor. Moore's insights into the springs of human conduct, her ability to catch the moment that flips someone from eccentric to unmoored, endow her work with a heartbreaking resonance. Strange birds, these characters might be, but they are present everywhere. Editor, Victoria Wilson; agent, Melanie Jackson.(Sept.)
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