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Fortune Smiles: Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 18, 2015

4.5 out of 5 stars 176 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Masterful . . . Each [story] is a miniature demonstration of why his remarkable novel The Orphan Master’s Son won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.”The Washington Post
“[Adam Johnson] is always perceptive and brave; his lines always sing and strut and sizzle and hush and wash and blaze over the reader.”The New York Times Book Review
“Superb . . . explosive.”The Wall Street Journal
“Remarkable . . . the best short story collection since Tenth of December . . . Johnson is one of America’s greatest living writers.”The Huffington Post
“Haunting, harrowing . . . Johnson’s writing is as rich in compassion as it is in invention, and that rare combination makes Fortune Smiles worth treasuring.”USA Today
Fortune Smiles [blends] exotic scenarios, morally compromised characters, high-wire action, rigorously limber prose, dense thickets of emotion, and, most critically, our current techno-moment.”The Boston Globe
“Johnson’s boundary-pushing stories make for exhilarating reading.”San Francisco Chronicle
“Entrancing.”O: The Oprah Magazine
“One of the most original and compelling voices in contemporary American fiction.”Entertainment Weekly
“Johnson packs more voice in his stories than most authors do in a novel.”Esquire

“Stunning . . . Johnson is a writer of uncanny insight and compassion and Fortune Smiles is a wise, poignant and important book. It should not be missed.”Toronto Star

“The best stories stretch well beyond their first and last words. They’re more than the opening scene; they invite the reader to imagine what came before and what will come after. They’re alive and they’re limitless. That’s exactly what the best stories in Fortune Smiles are like.”—NPR
“[A] bold and deeply wise collection.”BuzzFeed
“Even as Johnson’s subject matter bends genre is a way that is assertively contemporary, much of his prose is classically beautiful. . . . The speculative fiction of Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell, which also trade in inherited traumas and personal resilience, come to mind, as do George Saunders’ darkly satiric visions of near-future America.”The New Republic
“Transfixing . . . The collection amply confirms Johnson’s daring and talent.”The Oregonian
“Excellent.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Johnson has a rare combination of inventiveness, intellectual pyrotechnics and emotional sophistication. . . . These stories are treasures.”—BBC
“Adam Johnson returns with this riveting collection of short stories, each reflecting the darkly imagined, slightly surreal point of view that animated his Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Orphan Master’s Son. . . . He’s a compelling writer, in any form.”San Jose Mercury-News

“Startlingly, blazingly original.”BookPage

“[Adam Johnson] serves up six sinewy stories that shock and surprise in his edgy, inviting Fortune Smiles. . . . [They’re] compulsively readable tales about characters whose lives are largely ignored, undervalued, or simply uncharted and whose voices we seldom hear.”Elle

“The stories in Fortune Smiles fizz with imagination, miniature worlds exploding onto the page. Adam Johnson’s prose is so pared-down, like the setting for precious stones, he gives us just what’s necessary to let the facets sparkle, without distraction. I loved this book!”—M. L. Stedman, New York Times bestselling author of The Light Between Oceans

“How do you follow a Pulitzer Prize–winning novel? For [Adam] Johnson, the answer is a story collection, and the tales are hefty and memorable. . . . In the title story, two North Korean criminals adjust to post-defection life in South Korea. . . . Often funny, even when they’re wrenchingly sad, the stories provide one of the truest satisfactions of reading: the opportunity to sink into worlds we otherwise would know little or nothing about.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A half-dozen sometimes Carver-esque yarns that find more-or-less ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges and somehow holding up. Tragedy is always close to the surface in Johnson’s work—with tragicomic layerings. . . . Bittersweet, elegant, full of hard-won wisdom: this is no ordinary book, either.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

About the Author

Adam Johnson is the author of The Orphan Master’s Son, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the California Book Award, and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. It was named one of the best books of the year by more than a dozen publications, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and Entertainment Weekly. Johnson’s other awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Stegner Fellowship; he was also a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award. His previous books are Emporium, a short story collection, and the novel Parasites Like Us. Johnson teaches creative writing at Stanford University and lives in San Francisco with his wife and children.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (August 18, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812997476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812997477
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (176 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ann Elliot VINE VOICE on June 28, 2015
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When this book appeared on the list of Vine possibilities, I jumped on it. The way my life has been going recently, I could use a little hope and cheer. The title sounded like just what I needed.

That will teach me to choose a book without doing any research first.

In the book, Fortune Smiles is the name of a rigged North Korea-based lottery game.

The six stories feature a woman paralyzed and in the throes of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a man fighting his compulsion to molest little girls, a woman with breast cancer, a UPS driver dealing with personal crises and the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, a former Stasi warden of a notorious prison for political prisoners in what was East Berlin and two men who rather accidentally defected from North Korea to South Korea, where they trade a totalitarian regime for the equally not-subtle indoctrination of glitzy capitalism and proselytizing Christianity.

Fortune hasn't smiled on any of these characters, unless she is enjoying some very cruel pranks.

I avidly read all the stories anyway. Johnson is a highly skilled writer who pulls the reader into unfamiliar territory and unfolds a good bit of social commentary.

I even finished the story about child molesters, although my stomach was churning as I read.

One of my favorites was "Interesting Facts," the one narrated by a woman with breast cancer. It was deftly written--so much so that I stopped part way through and reread to see how Johnson had led me down the path he wished without my seeing what he was doing.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Adam Johnson is one of the most impressive writers, in terms of style, content, and originality, I’ve come across in the last decade. His ability to use humor to capture dislocated souls in a dystopian world that is not the future but NOW is unparalleled and points to another master of this type of fiction, George Saunders.

My favorite story, “Nirvana,” is about a man trying to nurse his wife, bedridden from an autoimmune disease (she listens to the band Nirvana through her earbuds to medicate herself from her physical and mental agony) while working at a Silicon Valley tech company, Reputation Curator, which “threatens Yelpers and Facebookers to retract negative comments about dodgy lawyers and incompetent dentists.” In a slightly future America teeming with drones and hologram figures that can’t be distinguished from real people, the story captures the absurdity and cognitive dissonance we live in today.

The most disturbing and courageous story, “Dark Meadow,” is about a former online purveyor of children who, struggling with his past demons, tries to redeem himself by using his computer hacking skills to expose online child predators.

The two aforementioned stories are my favorites and worth the price of admission, but there are other treasures including “Hurricanes Anonymous” about a single father driving a UPS truck with his infant (abandoned by the mother) in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and “Fortune Smiles,” about two North Korean misfits living in the popular culture of South Korea.

These six stories highlight one of our best novelists and short story writers. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Fresh off of his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Orphan Master's Son, author Adam Johnson is back with an eclectic collection of short stories. Each of the six selections offers a unique tale of a character struggling to come to terms with the realities and challenges of their lives. Johnson highlights these ethical dilemmas with his quietly assured writing.

In Nirvana, a husband struggles to cope with his wife's crippling Guillain–Barré syndrome. The couple lives in the not too distant future where technology such as Android glasses and Google lanes are commonplace. To help endure the emotional effects of his wife's physical condition, he programs an iProjector hologram of the recently assassinated U.S. President to interact with. He seeks a friend, someone to talk to about his misfortune. The hologram communicates by using bits and pieces of recordings of the President's media appearances, so any "advice" that the husband receives, comes in the form of hollow political sentiments.

Hurricane Anonymous follows Randall, a UPS truck driver living in New Orleans during the immediate aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He is thrust into fatherhood when his young son is left at the foot of his UPS truck. With no note as to the mother's whereabouts, Randall continues to drive his routes while searching for his son's mother. Meanwhile, his mute father is on his deathbed, and his current girlfriend wants to run away with him and start a new life with their FEMA money. Randall does everything in his power to provide for his family as each of them pulls him in different directions.

In the most personal story in the collection, Interesting Facts, Johnson assumes the voice of a wife facing the effects of breast cancer on her family.
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