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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Original edition (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416595635
  • ASIN: B003A02WGC
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,513,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. National Book Award–finalist Thompson (for Who Do You Love) delivers a deeply affecting collection that elevates the quotidian to the sublime. In the title story, Julia, a young woman œembarrassed for œpeople [who] talked about guardian angels or spirit guides, visits a psychic after her boyfriend dies. Faced with the ability to access the world beyond, she recoils sharply. The collection goes on to explore a bewildering array of experience, from a young wife denying her husband's white-collar crimes in œLiberty Tax to the concerned neighbor of œLittle Brown Bird who is powerless to help a little girl being molested by her father. In œEscape, a man who has suffered a stroke finds himself at the mercy of his increasingly abusive wife. Determined to get away from her, he's pleasantly shocked when she solves his problem in a way he never counted on. Thompson immerses readers in details and emotions so consuming and convincing that the inane vagaries of modern life can take on near mythic importance. This collection shows the confidence and power of a writer in her prime. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Thompson...delivers a deeply affecting collection that elevates the quotidian to the sublime....explore[s] a bewildering array of experience...Thompson immerses readers in details and emotions so consuming and convincing that the inane vagaries of modern life can take on near mythic importance. This collection shows the confidence and power of a writer in her prime." -- Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"[Thompson's] particular grace...may be that her language and approach at first seem so straightforward that it's only partway through reading a story that, like one of her characters, we experience the surprise of a new world unfolding from the ordinary....twilit, elegiac...downright funny, too...Reviewing such a remarkable writer, one's own words can seem too ordinary, but Thompson's talent is such that it can overcome even those limitations." -- Booklist, Starred Review

"I don't deny it. I didn't know Jean Thompson's short fiction until I began reading this new volume of a dozen stories -- and didn't stop. Move over, Alice Munro, this gifted writer now sits in my mind near the throne of the short-story queens and kings of old. She is a master of dialogue, character, pacing and plot, and -- anyone who loves the form will have to cheer about this...Thompson employs spare, plain language, whose rhythms she assembles appropriately for various occasions." -- Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune

"[In] Jean Thompson's immensely satisfying new collection...emotional movement is small but powerful....The prose brims with unforced insight." -- Richard Rayner, Los Angeles Times

"[Thompson's] latest collection, Do Not Deny Me, is compelling, funny, thought-provoking.... Thompson is an astute observer of the pitfalls of contemporary life, how it isolates and challenges, how it brings out one's worst and best. Her clear-eyed, thought-provoking stories highlight rare, precious moments of grace even as she wisely notes the human tendency toward selfishness, pettiness and general bad behavior." -- Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald

"Thompson...takes us to a disturbing place in this darkly beautiful collection of short stories...Enthusiastically recommended." -- Library Journal

"The experiences of ordinary people...are precisely depicted in this fifth collection from the increasingly accomplished Thompson...who wields illuminating quotidian details and stunningly apt clichés with lethal skill, demonstrates how closely their desires and disappointments parallel and echo our own....Wonderful work from a contemporary master of scrupulous observation, plain statement and unvarnished common sense." -- Kirkus

"[Thompson's] at home anywhere and everywhere. She's at home in the skins of women and men, young and old, losers and winners, tyrants and victims, flakes and dupes and dopes and geniuses and soldiers and bikers and moms. Her characters hail from small towns and big cities. In her sparkling and sometimes heartbreaking short stories...Thompson channels all kinds of personalities, but she does it so artfully, with such supple, unaffected grace." -- Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune

"Thompson takes tragic, ordinary figures and lifts them to the sublime in prose that's often as funny as it is sad." -- Jeanne Kolker, Wisconsin State Journal --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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One of the best short story collections I have read in a long time.
RB
Some stories will make you laugh out loud, others will make you wince in self-acknowledgement.
Jill I. Shtulman
She has the ability to achieve remarkable depth of character development in a short story.
D. Kanigan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 31, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The short story form is an art and few writers have truly mastered it -- Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Tobias Wolff come to mind. Jean Thompson is among those rarefied authors. I loved her winsome collection "Throw Like A Girl", and couldn't wait to delve into her latest collection.

I was not disappointed. These twelve stories reveal how Americans truly live -- it's like looking in a mirror. All the nuances are pitch perfect, to the point that you say, "I know that guy!" Or, "That reminds me so much of someone I used to know..."

Each reader is bound to have his or her own favorites; I particularly enjoyed "Mr. Rat", the story of a presumably young man in a large, impersonal corporation, who seems at first to be bored and lethargic... and ends up being something far more horrible, a genius at self-preservation and a master at throwing his best friend "under the bus." Then there's "Escape", a tale of Hurley, a stroke victim, and his wife -- two unpleasant people who have a visceral hatred for each other. The twist at the end is reminiscent of O'Henry.

You'll meet people who build treehouses to escape from life's mundanity, women who sing in German and try to save little girls, a divorcee who suffers the blind date from hell, the young "golden couple" who are victims of today's economic times and, in their own way, survivors. Some stories will make you laugh out loud, others will make you wince in self-acknowledgement. All are little gems in their own unique ways.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Finding a good writer of short stories is more rare than finding a gold nugget on the sidewalk while you're taking a walk. Jean Thompson is an excellent writer of the short story genre. There are several favorites that I have in this collection.

My all-time favorite is the first story, 'Soldiers of Spiritos'. Ms. Thompson takes on all the politically correct 'isms' that are currently in vogue in academia. The story is about a drama teacher who feels worn-out and out of place on the faculty. At the same time, he is busy writing a science fiction satire about his colleagues who look down on him and sometimes do not even acknowledge him. We see his sensitive side and that he really cares when he can get through to his students on some level.

Another wonderful story is 'Little Brown Bird'. A woman is working on a quilt and hidden among the appliques in plain sight is a little brown bird. The woman befriends a young girl from a troubled family next door and realizes that the girl's life is as visible as the little brown bird.

'Escape' is a story of two older folks who live to hate each other. Sadly, the husband has had a stroke so he is at a disadvantage in the 'let's see how I can get her back' category. They manage to torment each other and the story is sad to read but most of us know at least one couple like this.

On page 251, Ms. Thompson says. "I think you're destined for something wonderful. Not sainthood, exactly." . . ."But some other kind of shining, special life. No matter what things might look like now." Sadly,in each of her stories, nothing much better than the current unhappiness that each character is facing is likely to appear on the horizon. She uses the term "emotional pollution" on page 250. That is what we see in all of the stories - - sadness, anger, bitterness, despair, hopelessness and the repetition of those same mistakes that got each character to the miserable place that they find themselves in now.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By jessbcuz VINE VOICE on August 11, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One of the best collection of American short stories I have read in recent years, Jean Thompson's Do Not Deny Me, highlights the internal worlds Americans' inhabit, even in the most prosaic settings. I have not previously read anything by Jean Thompson, but was shocked I haven't come across her work before, given the weight and talent these stories exhibited. Where have I been? Why haven't I come across her before?

No matter. I have now.

Her stories, quintessentially American,focus on characters that make up middle class America: a single, middle-aged, woman visiting her married house-wife college friend at Thanksgiving; an aging English professor who is being edged out by up-and-coming theory obsessed colleagues; a successful salesman who counters his mid-life crisis by building a tree-house. On the surface these stories sound flat, but Thompson picks away at that surface to reveal the supreme aching loneliness that swims beneath. Isolation runs through all her stories as a constant current, but sometimes her characters are able to counter this by finding meaning and small, measured pleasures within the banality of everyday life.

Rather shorter version of my feelings on this collection would be as follows: Read it late into the night. Finished it in 2 days. Not a light-hearted summer read,BUT an exceptionally satisfying read. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Scott William Foley VINE VOICE on September 28, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Do Not Deny Me is one of those rare short story collections that actually gets better as it progresses.

I must admit that I picked this book up simply because it was a short story collection and, as a short story writer, I try to familiarize myself with successful authors' styles and subjects. When I read the author biography and discovered that Thompson only lives fifty miles away from me, well, I automatically wanted to like the book and support a fellow Central Illinoisan.

We got off to a rough start. The first story in Do Not Deny Me, entitled "Soldiers of Spiritos," began promisingly enough but then fell flat as it detailed a burnt out professor and an "emo" student. "Wilderness" was not much of an improvement as it followed the stories of two middle-aged women--friends--and their troubled love lives. The third story was almost enough to make me put down the book; "Mr. Rat" was the typical jerk at work story focusing upon an egocentric young man.

But then, with the fourth story called "Little Brown Bird," things markedly improved. From that moment on, nearly all of the following stories were extremely good. In particular, I enjoyed "The Woman at the Well," a story about a female prison Bible study group; "Escape," a story about an elderly man still suffering from the ramifications of a stroke trying to gain his independence again; "How We Brought the Good News," a story about a spurned lover discovering amazing art in her workplace and hunting down the artist; and, my absolute favorite, "Treehouse," a story about a middle-aged man who just doesn't much see the point of anything anymore, and so he builds himself a tree house as a coping mechanism.
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