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Battleborn [Kindle Edition]

Claire Vaye Watkins
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
You Save: $8.01 (50%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC


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Book Description

Winner of the 2012 Story Prize
Recipient of the 2012 American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Foundation Award
A National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" fiction writer of 2012

Like the work of Cormac McCarthy, Denis Johnson, Richard Ford, and Annie Proulx, Battleborn represents a near-perfect confluence of sensibility and setting, and the introduction of an exceptionally powerful and original literary voice. In each of these ten unforgettable stories, Claire Vaye Watkins writes her way fearlessly into the mythology of the American West, utterly reimagining it. Her characters orbit around the region's vast spaces, winning redemption despite - and often because of - the hardship and violence they endure. The arrival of a foreigner transforms the exchange of eroticism and emotion at a prostitution ranch. A prospecting hermit discovers the limits of his rugged individualism when he tries to rescue an abused teenager. Decades after she led her best friend into a degrading encounter in a Vegas hotel room, a woman feels the aftershock. Most bravely of all, Watkins takes on – and reinvents – her own troubled legacy in a story that emerges from the mayhem and destruction of Helter Skelter. Arcing from the sweeping and sublime to the minute and personal, from Gold Rush to ghost town to desert to brothel, the collection echoes not only in its title but also in its fierce, undefeated spirit the motto of her home state.

Editorial Reviews


Named one of the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" fiction writers of 2012
NPR Best Short Story Collections of 2012 
A Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, and Time Out New York Best Book of the year, and more . . .

“A real treat… Through remarkably assured writing that manages to be both bristly and brittle, Watkins chronicles despair and loneliness, catalogs valiant fights for survival and desperate please to be heard, and every time has us rooting for her underdogs.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“Dazzling.” –O, The Oprah Magazine

“Although individual stories stand alone, together they tell the tale of a place, and of the population that thrives and perishes therein… The historical sits comfortably alongside the contemporary and the factual nicely supplements the fictional… Readers will share in the environs of the author and her characters, be taken into the hardship of a pitiless place and emerge on the other side—wiser, warier and weathered like the landscape.” –Antonya Nelson, The New York Times Book Review

"The most captivating voice to come out of the West since Annie Proulx - though it's to early Joan Didion that [Watkins] bears comparison for her arid humor and cut-to-the-chase knowingness." –Vogue

“Exceptional… A writer of great precision and greater restraint, Watkins is a natural storyteller whose material enriches that gift rather than engulfing it… One doesn’t have to be from the Battleborn state to recognize and appreciate literature that resonates like this.” –The Rumpus

"[A] breathtaking debut… [Watkins'] stories… carry the weight and devastation of entire novels.” –Flavorpill
"Absorbing… [Battleborn’s] true setting is a Faulknerian desert of the heart, where the soil is cursed by its precious metals and one’s personal history can be just as toxic. Clear-eyed and nimble in parsing the lives of her Westerners, one of Watkins’s strengths is not dodging that the simple fact that love can be tragic, involving, as it does, humans so flawed, so often tender and yet incapable.” –The Boston Globe

“A powerful new voice that deserves recognition… [Watkins maps] a regional portrait while pausing for detailed sketches, with a strong perspective that blends the romanticized past of Larry McMurtry, heartbreaking characters of Annie Proulx, and bleak timeless landscapes of Cormac McCarthy.” –The Onion AV Club

“As if Watkins’ prose embodies the desert landscape of Nevada itself, the stories are stony, unkind, and harsh, though never unattractive… Beneath these confessions runs a spiritual undertow—that salvific beauty can arise when brutality is brought to light… All of her stories left me feeling purged and oddly cleansed, easily making Battleborn one of the strongest collections I’ve read in years.” –The Millions

"Her incredible talent fills every page of this raw, wild, soaring debut. She may be the coolest real-life literary lady we've discovered in quite a while." –Flavorwire

“As grounded as they are in real places, the stories are fictions, crafted with the skill of an artisan, working from the starting points of Mary Gaitskill and Aimee Bender.” –Los Angeles Times

"Vibrant and assured… The settings of Watkins' home state—evoked with craft that echoes Cormac McCarthy or Richard Ford—were the perfect settings for heartbreak." –Time Out New York

"What distinguishes Watkins' work… is her command of time. Nearly all the stories are set in the present, but her characters constantly live with aftereffects of the past. They're not simply "scarred" by history; they're irradiated by it, queasily lit from within.” –Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“[An] assured debut… Here’s hoping Watkins will continue to delve into Nevada’s unsound caverns and emerge with such worthy plunder.” –Dallas Morning News

“Gloriously vivid stories about the human heart.” –Kirkus

“In her debut short story collection Battleborn Claire Vaye Watkins marries character to landscape as well as anyone I have read in years. These stories set in the Nevada desert are gritty and brilliant, and foretell an auspicious literary future for their author.” –Largehearted Boy

"A coolly impressive new voice of the American West." –The Financial Times

"The people in Battleborn… aren’t characters in stories, but human beings perpetually yearning for warmth… Entering the varied lives is akin to watching a tightrope walker high overhead, moving with steady confidence without a net… Watkins writes with precision and care, the sentences themselves as surprising as the events, the dialogue, and the spare description… There is a purity to the prose that is a constant pleasure to read… There is great originality in these narratives… But the generosity and personal sacrifices of the people are as universal as the stars at night." –Chris Offutt, Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Readers... will find much to admire in this arresting collection, which one hopes is merely the first stop along the way for a writer who deserves a sustained literary life." –Library Journal (starred review)

“A fresh, fierce, fabulous collection. Watkins writes like the divine Didion—cool and clean with not a word wasted. Where’d she come from? I’m glad she’s here.” –Joy Williams, author of The Quick and The Dead

“Claire Vaye Watkins is never, ever satisfied with the ordinary. Each story in this brilliant debut surprises. Watkins offers us amazing visions of a funny, savage, haunted West-and one of the most outstanding short story collections in recent memory.” –Christopher Coake, author of We’re in Trouble and You Came Back

About the Author

Claire Vaye Watkins was born in Death Valley and raised in the Nevada desert. She has been named one of the National Book Foundation's "Five Under 35" fiction writers of 2012. Her work has appeared in Granta, The Paris Review, The Hopkins Review, Hobart, One Story, Ploughshares, and Las Vegas Weekly. She is an assistant professor at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. 

Product Details

  • File Size: 495 KB
  • Print Length: 305 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1594488258
  • Publisher: Riverhead; Reprint edition (August 2, 2012)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0085DP2LQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,511 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A STUNNING DEBUT July 6, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Boy, can this woman write! Not every story in this collection is perfect but all of them are good, some in parts, but most all the way through, and the best of them are brilliant, revelatory and scarifying, glimpses into aspects of life that most ordinary folk never see or think of. All of the stories take place in the far West, a land that is still far rawer than most places in our citified, surfaced-civilized nation.

The first story, "Ghosts, Cowboys," takes multiple stabs at presenting a history of a place, then devolves into the tale of a woman whose father, her mother told her before she died, was Charles Manson's "number one procurer." There's a plot to the story but it's more about how one lives with such an awful heritage. In "The Last Thing We Need," a man writes to someone he's never met. He knows of him only because he came across the man's wallet, a packet of letters, and two unfilled prescriptions with an address on them, left behind as rubbish. He doesn't even know if the man still lives there but that's not why he writes: he's killed a drifter in an aborted convenience store robbery and he cant's get his head around what he's done and he hopes a complete stranger can help him but he knows he can't. "I've tried, Duane Moser," he writes, "But I can't picture you at 4077 Pincay Drive. I can't see you in Henderson, period, out in the suburbs, on a cul-de-sac, in one of those prefab houses with the stucco and the garage gaping off the front like a mouth. I can't see you standing like a bug under those streetlights the color of antibacterial soap. . . . I can't see you behind a fence.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Edgy Stories of Nevada and California October 31, 2012
This author shows some definite promise, provided she can manage to sort out her verb-tense schizophrenia. She doesn't shy away from dicey material. In the first few stories, she revels in the strange and the forbidden, with stories about abortion, incest, a gay male madam at a Nevada brothel, and kids who ran with Charlie Manson. The last few stories are a bit more commonplace, but still edgy, because edginess is the petri dish from which her stories evolve.

Most of these stories are set in Watkins's home state of Nevada. I spent my formative years on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, on the California side, but very close to the border with Nevada. I have some familiarity with the geography and "vibe" of Nevada, which Watkins captures perfectly. Her stories grow from that boredom and restlessness and just general weirdness of life in a barren landscape, where there's so little to do but stir up mischief and go a little crazy.

Two complaints. First, wandering verb tense makes me tense. Second, I felt cheated by the way some of the stories ended. Short stories are often like outtakes from a full-length film. It takes some real skill to leave the reader satisfied while ending a story "in media res." Watkins has yet to master that skill, but she certainly has the potential to do so.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting stories from the American West August 27, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I decided to move out of my comfort zone in reading this as a Vine pick. I am not particularly a fan of the short story genre, but I had heard good things about Claire Vaye Watkins' debut collection of short stories and decided to give it a try.

I am pleased to say that this collection exceeded my expectations, drawing me into the lives of characters so far removed from my own experiences, and the American West provides a primal, gritty backdrop for the stories. There are ten stories in this collection and one of the most powerful is the first, "Ghosts, Cowboys" which begins on a sort of random note but then moves on to the Manson family. The story eventually settles to focus on a girl who finds out from her suicidal mother, that the girl's father Paul was Manson's pimp, procuring young girls for the commune's ranch. This legacy follows the girl over the years, and I was particularly affected after reading elsewhere that the author's own father (who died of Hodgkin's Disease when she was six) was a member of the family though apparently he was not involved in the notorious murders. The author certainly has a way with words, and sets up powerful scenes with minimal words.

Many of the characters are deeply flawed, but what struck me was that despite these flaws or psychological scars, I was actually interested in how things turned out for them (I'm not usually one to sympathize with flawed characters, especially those that seem to have a predilection for self-destruction). Watkins just might convert me into a fan of the short story!
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Battle Born" (this title presents it as one word) is one of the semi-official monikers for the state of Nevada, the setting of many of these gorgeous and precise stories. It's a great title for this collection, which presents us with a series of characters whose circumstances suggest that they should be damaged beyond human recognition--but who in fact possess an inspiring sweetness and who long for connection. Though scarred by battle, each still seeks the faith necessary for birth and rebirth.

I don't want to spoil the book so a couple of examples will have to suffice: the final story of the collection ("Graceland") describes the precarious relationship of two sisters, in their 20s, whose mother has recently committed suicide. Both sisters are tiny in stature; both are involved with much larger men. The married sister is pregnant and attempting in the accoutrements of her apartment to recreate the dead mother's house (a recording of Paul Simon's "Graceland" is one of these). The other sister, who narrates the story, is so traumatized in her own way that one can scarcely imagine that she can help--but she does realize "I am the only one who knows what it means, this compiling. I am the only one in Gwen's life who can see what she's doing." This brief plot summary may sound like such a story could tip into sentimentality (especially if I tell you that the Disney movie "Dumbo" also features prominently in the tale). But Watkins' talent and discipline and her tremendously impressive command over language keep this collection far away from that defect. Instead, when the narrator speaks up ("And I said, 'What is WRONG with you?" When what I meant to say was, Are you okay?"), the complex ambivalence of the sisterly relationship is unmistakeable and beautifully managed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Unresolved endings
The book is well written. I had no issue with the writer's ability to tell a story. Perhaps I'm just not a fan of the "short story" format, but that is a matter of... Read more
Published 17 days ago by Amy Dean
4.0 out of 5 stars Just phenomenal..
I was turned on to this book on Flavorpill and checked it out. Watkins is a terrific writer with incredible stylistic range. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Conrad Poos
1.0 out of 5 stars Should have come with a trigger warning
There are too many voyeuristic dead-eyed stories, in particular one about a girl leading a friend into a gang rape. I'm sending this back, my first ever returned book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mary Wallace
1.0 out of 5 stars Battlettash
I've read some sorry books before, but this is the stupidest book I ever tried to read. Couldn't get started on it and what I manage was a was5te of.GoldWater of money.
Published 2 months ago by Thomas M. Golden
5.0 out of 5 stars Nevada
A great collection of stories that I can't recommend enough.

Amazon says I have to write 10 more words before they let me post this review.
Published 3 months ago by Brady
5.0 out of 5 stars Battleborn
Really interesting to read about someone on the outskirts of Manson and how their lives were affected by the Manson experience.
Published 4 months ago by Marylouise Flynn
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite
A collection of stories that captures a place and a time and real people living in it, with plenty of emotion and description. There is so much at stake in all of these stories. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Joseph Stracci
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow-wow-wow
I've just finished Battleborn and I want to start reading it all over again. Beautiful, painful, witty and heartbreaking, these stories are magnificent!!!
Published 4 months ago by Maria Jose Navia
5.0 out of 5 stars HOME MEANS NEVADA
My brother and I were born and raised in Nevada and love it's harsh beauty. This is a gift for him.
Published 4 months ago by V. CHESSER
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just for Nevadans
If you know Nevada then you know the details in this book ring true. Some of the stories end on a bit of a jarring note, but perhaps that is just the nature of keeping the story... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Book Hoarder 451
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