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Believers: A novella and stories Hardcover – March 11, 1997


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

What a marvelous writer Charles Baxter is. His prose is luminous, his imagery surprising, and the stories he tells are bottomless in their depth. Readers who have not already had the good fortune to make this writer's acquaintance in earlier works of fiction such as Shadow Play, Harmony of the World, and others have a rare treat in store for them in his latest collection of short stories, Believers. Here, in "The Cures for Love," Ovid returns from the dead to offer advice to a young woman whose lover has left her, while in "Kiss Away" an urban genie grants another young woman a wish for her boyfriend's love--a wish that proves double- edged. The collection's title novella, "Believers," is a son's account of his father, a former priest who "was vacated of his faith" when he met the woman he would one day marry.

As this novella and the eponymous collection suggest, faith is at the crux of all these stories--lost faith, lack of faith, transient faith. Belief in God or in one's lover or in oneself, whatever shape it assumes, is the essential quality Baxter's characters seek, and sometimes find. These stories demand more than one reading, and they will, with each revisiting, yield some new and telling insight that makes you wonder that you never noticed it before.

From Kirkus Reviews

No one will ever accuse Baxter of literary frivolity--and that's the problem. In these eight stories, even the most casual events come bathed in sociopolitical gloss, often to the detriment of Baxter's modest narrative instincts. ``Believers,'' the novella that takes up a large part of this volume, strives for world-historical significance to explain one man's loss of faith: the narrator's father, a former Catholic priest who was seduced from his bumpkin modesty in the Midwest by a couple of northeastern smarties, a Protestant husband and wife who aspired to be America's answer to the Cliveden set--witty and urbane fascists, with oodles of dough and a fancy estate in Michigan. The narrator's frustration is simple: He was conceived as a direct result of apostasy and abandoned celibacy. Such clear and easy ironies abound in Baxter's remaining stories as well. In ``The Next Building I Plan to Bomb,'' a seemingly bland (and heterosexual) midwestern banker finds a threatening message on a piece of paper and decides to act out his own need to be dangerous by engaging in unsafe sex with a young man. Baxter's well-written narratives are distinguished by such surprises--the odd revelation in an apparently ordinary life, like the neighbor who may or may not be a child molester/killer (``Time Exposure''); the happily-in- love young slacker who isn't sure whether her boyfriend is a woman beater or not (``Kiss Away''); and the married father who acts like a fool over his first wife, whom he hasn't seen since she left him over a decade ago (``Flood Show''). Linked by their underlying concern with the forms of passion, these stories are best exemplified by ``The Cures For Love,'' a relatively modest tale of a classics teacher who finds solace in Ovid. Baxter's banal commentary about America as mouthed by his characters is slightly more endurable than those same characters' tendency to write things like ``sadness'' on grocery lists. A fine writer is here tried (tired?) and true. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st edition (March 11, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679442677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679442677
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,456,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

A good collection of stories with an excellent novella at the end.
JD Cetola
This book is quite funny and touching -- Baxter has the ability to move people's hearts with his unique language and precise coming timing.
CoffeeGurl
By the time I had finished reading this introduction to Baxter, I had already visited the bookstore to purchase his "Feast of Love."
Zinta Aistars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By tlemire@cnc.com on February 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
Until a long-awaited follow-up proves me wrong, "Believers" is Charles Baxter's finest collection of short fiction. Many writers choose similar themes as Baxter -- midwestern life, midlife romance, middle-distance observation -- but none, in my reading, handle the short fiction form with such aplomb and dexterity, making it look easy. The novella in this collection that gives it its name is outstanding, insofar as it grapples with such enormous themes of trust, belief and the mystery of people in the number of pages it does. Until we get another novel or short fiction collection from C. Baxter, there is the rereading of these stories, a thoroughly enjoyable and edifying experience.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 26, 1998
Format: Hardcover
What makes Charles Baxter's stories beautiful, beyond the understated brilliance of the words he finds to tell them, is the deep respect and sympathy he obviously feels for his characters. Reading, you enter the minds of the most random people--a small-town English teacher, a middle-aged housewife with growing doubts about her husband's secrets, a man who owes his life to the failure of his father, a priest, to keep his vow of chastity. Each character is revealed in all his or her complexity and humanity, with absolute fidelity: there is no patronizing moral judgment or reducing people to "types," just an understanding sadness at people's failings and a quiet admiration where admiration is due. One of the most unexpected and satisfying things about his writing is how funny his stories can be--they've made me laugh out loud, but even Baxter's highly developed sense of the absurd never overwhelms the underlying feeling of a story.
I love Charles Baxter's writing, and for me, Believers is the best he's done so far.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
the stories in this book are meant to be savored. Every character and event is deeply engaging and somehow exactly right. There's something on every page which will surprise or amaze you and make you have an uncanny feeling that the author is voicing your next thought. Chances are you will recognize a bit of yourself or someone you know in each of his characters. Reading "Believers" or any of Charles Baxter's books is a true pleasure; once discovered, they are sure to be among your favorites.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 11, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Charles Baxter is a writer's writer; his prose is dazzlingly precise, his dialogue is unerringly sharp, and his themes are big: God, love, and the loss of both. He's they type of writer who inspires envy among other writers (his fans the acknowledged contemporary queen of short fiction, Alice Munro.) So why is his latest collection so unsatisfying? Baxter's writing is as sharp as usual, but the tone is darker, relentlessly darker at that. Most of the stories are devoid of hope; most of the characters are guilty of the basest acts (misplaced revenge, lust for ex-spouses, and fascism all rear their ugly heads.) I don't mind darkness, but Baxter finds little relief in these pieces; there are no contrasts, no moments of light to make the darkness stand out. Still, the stories hang in the memory. "Time Exposure," in which a husband, acting out of a false sense of justice, nearly murders a neighbor for an imagined crime, gets under the skin
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By CoffeeGurl HALL OF FAME on July 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Having read A Feast of Love, I was compelled to read another Charles Baxter book. This book is quite funny and touching -- Baxter has the ability to move people's hearts with his unique language and precise coming timing. The short stories are great; my favorites are "Reincarnation," "The Next Building I Plan to Bomb" and "The Cures for Love." These stories are extremely funny and thought provoking at the same time.
Believers, like The Feast of Love, has a timeless quality that establishes Baxter as one of our most gifted fiction writers of today. I strongly recommend this book.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Zinta Aistars on April 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
This collection of seven stories and one novella landed in my hands as a gift, knowing that I have an interest in authors residing in my geographical area (lower Michigan)... but after reading the collection, I plan to read more Baxter, regardless of where he lives, regardless whether the books arrive in my hands as gifts or as my own purchases. I will plunk down my hard-earned dollars for a bit more Baxter, because he knows how to tell a story, and he knows how to write one.
No, that is not one and the same thing. I have found that some authors can weave a yarn very well, peaking suspense, captivating intrigue, taking the reader from beginning to middle to climactic conclusion, but not necessarily with words that are breathtakingly new. These are the storytellers. Others, I find, may not be the best at keeping the varied and many strings of a storyline teasingly tangled yet taut, but they are wonderful writers. They are word artists. They have a talent for choosing fresh phrases that amaze, painting colorful images, bringing about those special a-ha moments for the reader by framing something in words never quite framed that way before. I love that. Maybe even more than a taut storyline.
But oh, the pleasure when finding a word-artist who can also tell a good story! Baxter can do this. Granted, not always in equal measure. "Saul and Patsy Are in Labor" leaves me unconvinced, even wincing a bit. In theory, I believe it is possible for a male writer to write as if with the voice of a woman, for a female writer to write as if with the voice of a man - and convincingly so. But it's hard, it is tricky. For a male writer to write as if a pregnant woman.... well, let's just say, it didn't break my water.
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