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An Explanation for Chaos Paperback – October 1, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The protagonists of these nine sharply observed and moving stories by PEN/Hemingway finalist Schumacher (The Body Is Water) are generally preadolescent or teenage girls trying to fathom a world in which parents fail to protect them from sadness and force them to assume adult responsibilities. Three parents in these stories take sick, two die, several couples separate or divorce?and the kids try to cope. Sometimes they express their unhappiness in mean, nasty behavior toward their siblings and peers. Sometimes they are so cynical and world-weary that their perceptions are implausibly wise. The best stories, however, keep the reader off kilter, delivering poignant, visceral truths about families and sibling relationships. When the narrator's sister in "Dummies" takes on the burden of responsibility for their retarded brother, the dynamics among the siblings are wrenchingly rearranged. In "Levitation," the rebellious behavior of two teenage girls casts a long shadow into the future. The stories resonate with striking images: three siblings crowded in back of a pickup truck with a dozen fire-charred, naked mannequins; a young husband whose cowboy boots contain prosthetic feet to replace those he lost in an accident. In the title story, a woman tells her therapist about her stern scientist father's unrelenting search for "an explanation for chaos." Her bitter response is to believe that "almost nothing has a reasonable explanation." If chaos is never far from the surface of all the lives depicted here, Schumacher renders their dynamics with vibrant imagination.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA. Seven of the nine short stories in this collection were published previously in literary magazines including The Atlantic Monthly and the California Quarterly. As might be expected, they are artfully formed and intellectually appealing. The volume's title is that of the briefest and most theoretical tale here, but most of the accompanying pieces are specifically plot- or character-driven. Several selections have middle school aged protagonists, each caught between the limitations of early adolescent insights and the tensions dictated by the adults nearest to them. Plots include child molestation, separation from a parent, and mental and physical disabilities of various sorts. The narrators are no wiser than their ages and life experiences would allow, yet the ambiguities of their circumstances invite older teen readers to see just how a wrong turn was inevitable, how a tragedy had to come from the set of circumstances given, how a character's later life must be forever colored by the events of the story as related here. This is an excellent example of short-story writing that has appeal to inveterate readers and can be "sold" to less book-oriented audiences through booktalking.?Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 165 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (October 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380730502
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380730506
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,196,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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