Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: "Thunderstruck & Other Stories" by Elizabeth McCracken

The short stories in Elizabeth McCracken's great new collection, Thunderstruck & Other Stories, may not leave you feeling all shiny and happy inside, but you will find yourself marveling at her writing ability, and how she captivates and compels you in just a few short pages. These are stories that look at the bleaker side of life, love, and relationships, but many pack a serious punch.

Some of my favorites in this collection are: "Juliet," which tells the story of a community rocked by a murder, as narrated by staff from the library, who knew both the victim and the alleged murderer; "Property," about a young widower who moves into a dilapidated rental home and finds himself confronted by the detritus the landlord left behind; "The Lost & Found Department of Greater Boston," told by the manager of a local grocery store, who feels a vested interest in the life of the teenage son of a missing woman; "Hungry," about a woman dealing with a dying son, an angry daughter, and a granddaughter who won't stop eating; and the title story (which is probably my favorite), about a family that flees to Paris in an attempt to curb their teenage daughter's rebellious behavior, and finds themselves affected in ways they could never imagine.

It has been a while since I've read one of McCracken's books, although I remember how much I enjoyed the wonderful The Giant's House a number of years ago, but I remember how much I love her storytelling skills. The stories in this collection hooked me pretty quickly, and left me thinking about them even as I went on to the next one. And even now, a few days after I've finished the collection, some of the stories—particularly the ones I've named above—have me wondering what happened to the characters when the stories ended.

If you're a short story fan, pick up Thunderstruck & Other Stories. The stories themselves might not make you joyful, but McCracken's writing certainly will.

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