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O Street Paperback – April 2, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wycoff works over an idée fixe in her debut collection, 10 stories about a young woman's difficult transition to adulthood after an abusive childhood. Most of the stories catch fragile protagonist Beth at a precarious moment in her unlucky life: from the fatherless childhood spent in Jersey City tenements and ramshackle motels ("Where We're Going This Time") to graduating from high school and fleeing at 17 to Chicago. She returns five years later, in "The Wrong Place in the World," upon receiving (bogus, she later learns) news of her mother's terminal illness. Beth is poised in each story for monstrous disappointment orchestrated by her manipulative and mentally ill mother, Angela, who blames Beth for ruining her life. "September 1981" chronicles Angela's downward trajectory, and the eerily parallel "Afterbirth" delineates Beth's own struggle with single motherhood after having gotten pregnant while prostituting herself at a Days Inn. Other stories develop Beth's failed lesbian relationships, and the title story exposes Beth's damage: a gang rape as a teenager at the hands of her mother's stoned boyfriends. Over and over these degradations and disappointments are sounded like elements in therapy, and the result is a straightforward look at pain and renewal. (Apr.)
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Review

"In O Street, Corrina Wycoff paints a harrowing portrait of familial pain, mental illness, and the sometimes cruel tenacity of love. Hers is a world undone, through which mothers and daughters falter and fall, yet Wycoff never lets us forget the redemptive power these women hold for each other."
--Aimee Liu, author of Cloud Mountain and Flash House



"A deeply moving, deftly told, and keenly insightful tale of a daughter's love, by turns helpless and heroic, for a mother who has forgotten how to love." --Alex Shakar, author of The Savage Girl
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: OV Books (April 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0976717727
  • ISBN-13: 978-0976717720
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,384,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on October 5, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an astonishing book. The prose is so good and the characters are so vulnerable--that may be what I like best about it. I feel a deep honesty here, a lack of artifical construction. It feels as though this book needed to be written, and that quality is rare and makes the book feel urgent. One of the most touching elements is the way the narrator is always imagining salvation, she daydreams salvation, wow. Sad. Beautiful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Megan on October 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
Through Beth, Corrina Wycoff gives us one of the truest depictions of reality. On top of that, she does this in a fashion that does not feel calculated, theatrical, or melodramatic; through its inconsistencies, flaws in character, and ugliness, the story feels real. Hence, the reader cares. Moments like the rape scene and the birth are like bloody accidents on a highway; one may desperately wish she could turn her head, close her eyes, and erase the horrors before her; however, Wycoff pushes her readers just enough to keep their eyes on the scenes before them without pushing them so far that they close the book and try to forget.

Wycoff, through these vivid horrors, forces her readers to witness many commonly forgotten--or ignored--struggles of the female state. Poor mothers who give birth to poor daughters who become poor mothers... There is stagnancy in this piece that burrows itself into its readers. The vulnerability of these characters is displayed in such beauty, despite the horrid circumstances that bloom around them. Beth is trapped in this limbo of an existence as she tries to escape her past, yet cannot survive in her new life until it accepts her old one. She is the bridge between the two. Even Beth's perspectives of the world, especially considering love, are skewed by everything the reader knows about her past. For example, does she love women because she is looking for a motherly acceptance and tenderness that she was never able to receive from her own mother? Or, could it more of a revulsion to males because she was raped? Readers must wonder if Beth even knows what love is.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Brunette on January 28, 2007
Format: Paperback
O Street is the kind of book that is sadly missing from mainstream literature. It's engrossing and incredible in its realism, a book that makes you want to buy copies for everyone you know. O Street would be a candidate for publication by a major publishing house if only it weren't true that editors think no one wants to know that a young girl can go through a life like this one, through no fault of her own, just the chance of birth behind it. Which is not to say that Other Voices isn't a commendable press, a real coup for Wycoff, and a force of nature in contemporary literature. You'll thank them for believing in this book.

Wycoff makes us confront the failures of society, the way people like the mother protagonist fall through those cracks, which aren't cracks at all but more like chasms. Wycoff doesn't apologize for her political edge in this book, but neither is O Street a polemic. The argument is in the heartbreak at the heart of the story. You will want to rescue Beth, and you will cheer when she rescues herself in the absence of any other savior.

Never mind the somewhat dismissive Publishers Weekly reference to "degradations and disappointments" that are "sounded like elements in therapy." The whole of literature depends upon elements that could be discussed in therapy. Wycoff eschews banal self-help assessments and solutions and instead delivers a gripping story, in the voice of a talented writer:

"The O Street Girl came back to school today. She arrived between the first and second homeroom bells. She'd been absent since last January, and now it was October, and so many things had happened, things you would have told her once, before she was the O Street Girl, when she was Beth Dinard, your friend.
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By Reader 12 on November 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
Reading "O Street" I was reminded of Amy Bloom's "Come to Me: Stories," were one story is broken down into multiple perspectives to the reveal the subtext and dimensions of multiple characters within the collection of short stories. In "O Streets" case Wycoff writes in the perspective of the main character Beth's, her mother, classmate, and girlfriend to evoke the dimensions that makeup Beth. Through the multiple perspectives the reader is able can evaluate the steps a story that whose plot moves from one bad happening to another, and either reject or understand the perceptions that are presented. Wycoff does not give any answers to what happens in the story, and it is precisely the absence of her voice that the story is not a cautionary tale.
"O Street" is shaped by the dysfunctional relationship between mother (Angela) and daughter (Beth). The story follows the depths of Beth into her difficult, sometimes horrid, childhood, into a similarly hash adulthood. Her relationship with her mother is one that parallels who she becomes when she is older. Mother and daughter experience similar metal breakdowns triggered by a combination of mental sickness and unresolved issues. Angela's schizophrenia is left for the reader to either, sympathize with, demise, or form a combination of the two that reveals something about Angela's character. The reader is not given the right answer, but is given a developed character and left to figure it out on their own. Angela blames Beth for everything that goes wrong in her life, but simultaneously needs her for reassurance that things will turn out favorably. Does Angela love Beth? It's a question that Beth struggles with herself, her mother is past she cannot escape and so Beth drives herself into a hole deep enough she can't get out of.
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