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The Company of Heaven: Stories from Haiti (Iowa Short Fiction Award) Paperback – October 28, 2010


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Product Details

  • Series: Iowa Short Fiction Award
  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Iowa Press; 1 edition (October 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587299216
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587299216
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,376,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Told rather than "written," Phipps-Kettlewell's tales are portraits of Haitian life. Since characters appear in multiple stories, and narrators rarely identify themselves, Haiti itself becomes a character. The prologue, a memory of childhood nights, evokes a sweep of sensation--cicadas and frogs, fireflies that resemble miniature angels, the touch of wood softened by vermin, the smell of the dark--that brings Haiti to vibrant life. Phipps-Kettlewell, whose previous book was verse, brings a poet's sensual acuity to her stories. "Dogs" tracks the descent into madness of a mother who has little time for her children, but fills her life and home with mongrel dogs. In "The Chapel," the building itself describes what has occurred within. The excellent novella, "River Valley Rooms," is a simple tale made complex by its formal daring; a collage of love and loss, it begins as a reminiscence of a homosexual brother but expands to depict complicated relationships with parents and lovers. Though Phipps-Kettlewell's lyrical, evocative, and lush style carries these stories, it can also create inertia; more attention to narrative would have made this truly a collection to treasure.
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Review

“Marilène Phipps-Kettlewell’s The Company of Heaven heralds the fiction debut of a brilliant and insightful storyteller. With the sensitivities of the poet and visual artist that she is, Phipps-Kettlewell brings us these lyrical, funny, quirky, and memorable stories from the Haiti of both near and far. A book not to be missed, The Company of Heaven takes us to both heaven and hell and many places in between, but always with innovation, honesty, and grace.”—Edwidge Danticat



“Reading Marilène Phipps-Kettlewell’s The Company of Heaven is like happening on a book of psalms transcribed from some secret, fantastic, harrowed heart, somehow mineralized into language and somehow preserved for us to read. I was struck again and again by the lyrical, lamented, ‘lush but rotting’ but somehow also miraculously upheld world laid out before me. These stories are fraught and mysterious, and Phipps-Kettlewell’s art is to have preserved them so precisely in all their hard beauty.”—Paul Harding, author, Tinkers



“These are beautiful, richly textured stories; ‘painterly’ is the word that describes them best. What might be unbearable sadness after the devastation so recently suffered by Haiti becomes, in Marilène Phipps-­-Kettlewell’s hands, a testament of hope and resilience, of spirit and celebration. Like the people they are about, these stories will last.”—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By NaughtiLiterati VINE VOICE on October 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
I started reading this book last night and the first story was on my mind as soon as I woke up. I couldn't wait to get my hands back on the book to continue reading, and when I got to my stop, I had to shake myself out of the dream that the stories had lured me into. No, I wasn't in Haiti, I was on my way to work on a chilly October morning.

It is wonderful to see a poet that writes short fiction so well because as an aspiring writer who is told to read a lot of poetry, you see how the precision of poetry makes your fiction that much more powerful. I'm at work writing this review because I want anyone that has the slightest curiosity about this book to know that it is worth purchasing and reading IMMEDIATELY, and I can't wait to tune everyone here out so I can be left alone and can get back to my book. LOL

Every story (so far, and I am certain I won't be disappointed by the others) is so RICH...so stunning. I know that this collection is going to stay on my mind for a VERY long time.
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Format: Paperback
With the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, Haiti has been in the world's focus. With Marilene Phipps-Kettlewell's collection of short stories, we can get some insight into the country that has drawn our attention.

The book is refreshing, giving us a view at Haitian culture beyond voodoo and extreme poverty. Phipps-Kettlewell reveals a diverse nation in its class and economic strata and its religions. Voudoun is present in some of the stories, but it is fairly portrayed as an important belief alongside Catholicism. There are elements of magical realism (another stereotype First World nations tend to dump on the literature of Latin American and Caribbean countries), but most of the stories reveal their wonder through the author's poetic writing.

Some stories will stand out more than others, but there are no mediocre works in this collection. I hope it can open a door not only for Phipps-Kettlewell's growing career but also for other Haitian and Caribbean writers.
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