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A Better Angel: Stories Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 227 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (August 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374289905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374289904
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #830,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The author of Gob's Grief and The Children's Hospital returns with a sublime collection of nine stories whose wide assortment of characters, many of them children, fugue around death, are plagued by remembrance of things past and are possessed by violence. In Stab, a young protagonist whose twin died, joins a little girl in a killing spree of neighborhood animals, eventually setting their sights on larger prey. A woman who tries to commit suicide in The Sum of Our Parts wanders hospital halls as an astral projection, witnessing the unexpressed desires of her friends in pathology. And a Juno-esque teen, a hospital regular with short-gut syndrome, writes an animal book of sublimated child-ward life: bunnies with high colonic ruin, cats with leukemic indecisiveness and monkeys with chronic kidney doom. The story Why Antichrist? gives us two teenagers who have each lost parents, one to 9/11 (which looms large in the collection); the devil is soon literally between the teens. With heartbreaking imagination, Adrian illuminates how people act out their grief on their own bodies and the bodies of others, and enter the world of the spirit in the process. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* As he did in The Children’s Hospital (2006), Adrian again toes a unique line between fiction writer and prophet. If that staggering novel was a diamond in the rough, these short stories can be seen as the chips and shards left by a craftsman working to uncover the full range of his prodigious skill. He returns to the themes (sickness, childhood, and revelation) that have served him so well thus far in his career—no surprise for a man who is, in addition to being a writer, a divinity student and a pediatrician. Physical and mental maladies stand in for larger ailments of the soul, and religious trappings—angels and demons, visions and possession—are beatific and horrific at the same time, impossible to untangle one from the other. Each work in this collection helps solidify Adrian’s position as one of the most exciting, inventive writers working today. The moment you feel as if you’ve discovered the meaning in his words, it slips between your fingers and leaves you unsettled, unmoored, and unmistakably impressed. --Ian Chipman

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Customer Reviews

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Good stuff, the stories linger long after one is finished reading them.
Jean Brandt
The characters here react absurdly, sometimes, and silently others, but their reactions always show the absurdity of life after the death of someone you love.
Evan R. Cassity
The writing is deceitful in its simplicity, and an example to all aspiring short story writers, one of which I am.
Joy Manne

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Evan R. Cassity on August 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is common knowledge that Chris Adrian is both a pediatrician and a divinity student, and he somehow manages to pump out some of the most inventive and interesting writing being published today. The short stories in this collection have all been published elsewhere, but together like this one can see a continuity that may have been missed, before.

The stories are:
High Speeds
The Sum of Our Parts
Stab
The Vision of Peter Damien
A Better Angel
The Changeling
A Hero of Chickamauga
A Child's Book of Sickness and Death
Why Antichrist?

The first thing one will notice is that a great deal of these stories deal with the aftereffects of a loved one's death--usually a brother. The characters here react absurdly, sometimes, and silently others, but their reactions always show the absurdity of life after the death of someone you love. In a situation like the death of a brother, is not insanity the most sane of reactions?

Familiar characters to Adrian's universe are present in this collection--Pickie Beecher in "The Changeling" (previously called "Promise Breaker," as published in Esquire), a boy of the Claflin family in "The Vision of Peter Damien," or the quick mention of a Fie in "High Speeds." One could choose to believe that these stories are all happening in a separate universe, but there is comfort, I think, in allowing Adrian his creation.

Fans of The Children's Hospital and especially Gob's Grief will not be disappointed, nor will anyone picking up Adrian for the first time. Be prepared, though, to become just as obsessed with his writing as his characters are with their own unhealthiness.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By E. Gilbert on August 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are a serious reader of contemporary short stories or literature -- or just want to read and enjoy one of the most singular writers in this country -- "A Better Angel" should really delight you. The stories in this new collection by Chris Adrian are one of a kind, not what you expect when you begin each one and mesmerizing on their own terms as you get pulled into each one. And the title story is just simply remarkable, the sort of memorable story that makes me want to call friends and say, "I just read the most wonderful short story .... " What a great collection.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sasha on February 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While some of the stories have fantastical elements, Adrian never lets this overshadow the human element. I'd read some of the stories in the New Yorker--even better the second time around.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Maureen Howard on November 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Docs don't do house calls anymore, but Chris Adrian was there for me in his scrubs, laying out the prescription in a healing collection of stories. He has heart, does not dodge the crucial moments of desire,love, forgiveness.
"Death be not proud, though some have called thee/Mighty and dreadfull,for thou dost overthrow..." Adrian writes life into the last moments of each story. I actually read "A Better Angel" while waiting for the cardiogram check up to tell me I'm the better for it. Maureen Howard
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Arthur H. Roach on October 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really had to struggle whether to rate this a 5 or a 1.

One gets the feeling that Adrian has spent years thoroughly immersed in the writing of Flannery O'Connor. Starting with "A Good Man is Hard to Find," O'Connor points to the horrific inevitable ending of her story, and the reader, more astonished than repulsed, cannot turn his eyes away. And transcending every aspect of the story is O'Connor's relationship to an incarnational God who sometimes views Creation from afar.

I find "Stab" to be the best of Adrian's stories; and in this case his own better angel must have been the late O'Connor whispering in his ear. Within two or three pages, I knew where the story was going, and I couldn't dream of not going along for the ride.

Sometimes, as in "Stab," I would gasp aloud at Adrian's skill as a writer. Moving from O'Connor to another Southerner, Edgar Allen Poe, may I observe that at Adrian's best, every word contributes to the effect of the story -- one that sets a terror in the center of one's heart.

Other stories, it seems to me, are significantly less effective. The artist's craft is too effective by a half. His aim to shock and bring horror seems virtually out of control as one clever and well-crafted phrase follows another.

The stories are so intense that I found I could read only one a week. More than that led to sensory overload.

So, my profound respect to this gifted writer, and, Lord knows, we would all benefit from a true successor to Flannery O'Connor. As a divinity student, Adrian perhaps shares her affinity to a strong interior life, the fruits of which spill over into his writing. I think of her final masterpiece, "Parker's Back," and I hope that Adrian's journey as a writer leads him to similar heights.
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By Gail on January 31, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A look at addiction and a life misused. The author is able to convey a sense of addicted life from a first person perspective.
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By Joy Manne on September 2, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The stories take us where we have not gone, and they hurt. I have not previously imagined the pain children must be going through whose parent died so horribly when planes crashed into buildings. There are many pains I have not yet imagined. This book imagines them for me and takes me on a journey of deepening, of more respect, more compassion, more imagination.
The writing is deceitful in its simplicity, and an example to all aspiring short story writers, one of which I am.
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