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The River of Lost Voices: Stories from Guatemala (Iowa Short Fiction Award) Paperback – September 1, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Winner of the 1998 Iowa Short Fiction award, this remarkable debut collection chronicles life in the impoverished Guatemalan towns of Santa Cruz and nearby Coban. The physical distance these 10 stories cover is short, but the geography of human spirit it traverses is vast. In "Gemelas," a young woman reacts with a mixture of happiness and jealousy at the prospect of her twin sister's marriage to a wealthy landowner; it is her fate to follow her sister down a tragic path. A father, his daughter and a young woman grapple with fear of abandonment and aloneness in "How They Healed." A young boy experiences the erotic thrill of mystery when he is seduced by his employer, whose face he never sees, in "Bathwater." Pervading each tale is ex-Peace Corps volunteer Brazaitis's understanding of the intricate social stratifications of his characters' rural community. Adopting the conventions of folktales in sophisticated ways, Brazaitis controls his narratives with sparse dialogue and omniscient or calmly retrospective narrators. His admirable restraint anchors the stories and connects them by a tight chain of motifs, while his lucid prose directs attention away from itself and toward the characters who provide their color and drama.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Brazaitis has written a powerful collection about displacement, disappointment, and corruption but also about courage, humor, playfulness, and persistent hope. His stories of marginalized Guatemalans are by turn charming, unsettling, and moving-and they are told in language that sings." -- Elizabeth Graver, author of Unravelling

"I was thoroughly and magically transported by The River of Lost Voices. These are tender, beautiful, touching stories about a Guatemala that is at once strange and universal. This is a remarkable collection from a new writer with a major talent." -- Robert Olen Butler, author of A Good Scent from Strange Mountain

"The stories in The River of Lost Voices are unied not only by their vividly rendered Guatemalan settings but by the pervasive sense of folktale that is evident in both the magic of their imagery and the pleasing unpredictability of their forms." -- Stuart Dybek, author of Childhood and Other Neighbors and 1998 Iowa Short Fiction Award judge

"These stories display Mark Brazaitis' uncanny ability to offer up one surprise after another with such authority that the strangest turns of plot soon seem as natural as wind or rain. The stories draw their energy from the fault lines of Guatemalan society, especially the internal divide between Spanish-speaking ladinos and Mayan ind'genas (who are themselves divided, speaking many dialects). Whether the subject is a Mayan detective falling in love, an illiterate plantation owner 'reading' books without words, or a missionary whose sermons get 'translated' into local myth, Brazaitis maps this complex territory with an astoundingly sure eye and a finely modulated style. What a fine new talent has appeared among us!" -- Lewis Hyde, author of Trickster Makes This World

"When you finish these wonderful stories about life in a small Guatemalan town, you might feel as if they were a dream you just had. Funny, strange, sad, and exquisite things happened, and there were so many marvelous and perturbing details that you can't get them out of your head; their mood takes you over like the afternoon rains." -- Francisco Goldman, author of The Long Night of the White Chickens

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Product Details

  • Series: Iowa Short Fiction Award
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Iowa Press; 1 edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877456429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877456421
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,493,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Brazaitis is the author of six books, including Julia & Rodrigo, winner of the 2012 Gival Press Novel Award, and The Incurables: Stories, winner of the 2012 Richard Sullivan Prize from the University of Notre Dame Press. Stories in The Incurables originally appeared in Ploughshares, The Sun, Confrontation, Cimarron Review, Post Road, and the Notre Dame Review. About The Incurables, Kay Redfield Jamison said, "The stories are wry, compassionate, and provide a deep understanding of the strengths and frailties of human nature and the ways in which individuals play out the hard cards they are dealt."

Brazaitis' book of poems, The Other Language, won the 2008 ABZ Press First Book Prize, judged by Heather McHugh. Poems in the collection first appeared in The Sun, Witness, Notre Dame Review, Poetry East, Poetry International, and other literary magazines. One of the poems in the collection, "Soccer Until Dusk," is featured in Uncommon Journeys, a publication of the Peace Corps, and on the Peace Corps World Wise Schools' Web site.

Brazaitis is also the author of The River of Lost Voices: Stories from Guatemala, winner of the 1998 Iowa Short Fiction Award, and Steal My Heart, a novel published in 2000 by Van Neste Books. His second collection of stories, An American Affair, won the 2004 George Garrett Fiction Prize from Texas Review Press and was published in 2006.

A former Peace Corps volunteer and technical trainer, Brazaitis is a professor of English and the director of the West Virginia Writers' Workshop at West Virginia University. Born in East Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Morgantown, West Virginia, with his wife and two daughters.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
Make way for Mark Brazaitis, a new voice, a new awareness in American letters. Not that he pushes his way onto stage center, understand. On the contrary this diffident artist masks his considerable art and talent in gentleness. His collection of stories, "The River of Lost Voices," taps deeply into the experience and sensitivity of Guatemala, and, through this country into a larger Latin American landscape. In literary terms, the vein is known as magic realism, a well-spring of Latin reality. But he does so as an U.S. American, and because of this serves us all as guide into its mysteries. His understanding of female psychology is wonderful to behold. In contrast, García Márquez and Vargas Llosa, the reigning gods of magic realism, approach their women with characteristic macho bravado. Not so Brazaitis. His insight here is uncanny. Here's a man after woman's heart.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
Mark Brazaitis has done a wonderful job of capturing the human experience in this terrific collection. I found myself being drawn into each of the stories and falling in love with the characters. His use of magical realism captures the spirit of Latin American literature perfectly. I highly recommend this collection and look forward to reading future works by this extremely talented new writer.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "raanana" on June 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a beautiful collection of stories. The writing is vivid, the character portrayal rich with detail and emotional depth. I remain haunted by what I read in this book: the unsettling images, the keen insight into a town on the other side of the globe, the energy of the characters. This ranks among the best-written books of short stories that I have read, and I heartily recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peggy L. Brayfield on December 2, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Collection of fascinating short stories set in Guatemala. You can enjoy a 'good read' and indirectly glean a lot about the social fabric of the country and the lives of its people at the same time. I read these stories on the flight home from a volunteer/vacation in Guatemala and felt that it enriched my understanding of my experiences.
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The River of Lost Voices: Stories from Guatemala (Iowa Short Fiction Award)
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