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A Relative Stranger: Stories (Norton Paperback) Paperback – September 17, 2001


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Product Details

  • Series: Norton Paperback
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393322203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393322200
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #628,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Most of the protagonists in these 13 wonderfully varied, often funny stories set by Baxter ( Harmony of the World ) in Michigan are complex men reaching for answers that elude them. On the other hand their women, anchored in a simple and peaceful pragmatism, more wisely accept their mates' odd hungers and lunatic streaks. Stephen in "Lake Stephen" feels dissatisfied with Jan, his lover--she always seems to know in advance what he will do and say. When he importunes her to throw caution to the wind for once, she complies, but less than innocently: "Unless she broke the rules now," Jan realizes, "he would not follow the rules later." In "Westland" Warren turns in a teenage runaway and, as a result, is drawn with his family into the lives of strangers, much as Cooper in "Shelter" terrifies his wife and child with his quixotic gesture of inviting derelicts into their home. In Baxter's best and final story, "Saul and Patsy Are Pregnant," the characters from preceding stories come together, and their collective longing is resolved. Saul learns what the women have always known: happiness, if such a thing can exist, is love.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Everything old becomes new again in this collection of 13 short stories. Set in Michigan, Baxter's stories explore the various manifestations of love in human relationships: love that is lost, found, unrequited, and rediscovered; love in youth, middle, and old age. Whether we are reading about a social worker's chance encounter with a troubled teenager at the zoo, a happily married man's obsession with the secrets of the universe, a baker's attempt to assuage his guilt about the homeless, or a young Swede's disorienting introduction to Detroit, there is an element of familiarity in the tales. The author has written subtly but masterfully about the nuances of personal interaction in this insightful collection. Although his stories revolve around ordinary people and circumstances, the perspective is fresh and interesting. Through his character development, Baxter manages to give form to the doubts and fears we all share. --Kimberly G. Allen, National Assn. of Home Builders Lib., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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There are a variety of structural elements and the stories are interesting.
S. Foster Jones
The author provides an excellent portrayal of ordinary people faced with frequently occurring dilemmas of comtemporary living.
JEANNINE PETIT
It's one of the best stories I've read this decade, and a number of others in this collection rival it as well.
Eric Ziegenhagen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Many of these brilliant, thoughtful stories are about people at unexpected moments of boiling over. Something is wrong in these characters' lives--a minister anchored in security who desperately needs his own sermon on fear; an adult ed. teacher questioning what he believes and teaches--their emotional well-being, as a whole, may not be in peril, but something is. And Baxter has the grace and patience to take us about as far as one could go into small yet poignant circumstances of recognizable characters. Baxter's prose is lilting yet potent: "He was ball-and-chained to his emotions. On some days the obsession weighed him down so heavily that he could not get out of bed to go to work without groaning and reaching for his hair, as if to drag himself up bodily for the working day." This passage from "Saul and Patsy are Pregnant" illustrates Baxter's gift for confusing the comic and tragic--should these be opposites, one thinks--after reading this stunning collection.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Eric Ziegenhagen on January 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
My favorite story in this solid collection is "The Disappeared" -- a Swedish engineer comes to Detroit on business and tries to make sense of the world he finds himself in. It's one of the best stories I've read this decade, and a number of others in this collection rival it as well. (I liked this collection more than "Believers" and "Harmony of the World" -- but his essay collection Burning Down the House is great, too.) Baxter's not a flashy writer, but he's never simple -- more Edward Hopper than Norman Rockwell. Sample one story and you'll probably find the collection worth buying. These stories should last.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Why aren't more people reading Baxter? These wonderful stories are so moving they hold weight against writers like Cheever and Englander. Each is exquisitely wrought and powerful. A true master of craft...and (finally) suspense!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mary E. Sibley VINE VOICE on November 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book of stories. Fenstad skates on his way home from church because he is happy. Harry Fenstad writes brochures for a computer company. He teaches an extension course on composition. His hopefulness and didacticism has been picked up from his mother. Fenstad invites his mother to attend the class. Harry likes skating in the dark with a pharmicist friend, Susan, and he likes having his mother in the back of the writing class. His mother appears at the skating rink and things change, her frailty is exposed.
Detroit has four shopping centers at its cardinal points. The state of Michigan is like Holland. In another story a long lost brother finds a man whose monstrous behavior has just driven his wife and baby out of his house. He hits the brother in a bar following a baseball game. His hobby is building ships in bottles. It turns out that the men have nothing in common but they continue to see each other.
One of the characters, Cooper, decides that he must do something for the street people. Bringing someone home he offends his wife who works as a prosecutor. When he is hit up for money on the street by an old man his young son is offended. The little boy starts to hide his money from his father. A woman of the street misunderstands his interest and believes that he seeks a romantic encounter. He is told to do sweeping at the shelter to overcome his sense of guilt. The collection includes the silence of an Ezra Pound-like poet.
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