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Tumble Home: A Novella and Short Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 7, 1997

14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In keeping with its minimalist content, Amy Hempel's latest collection of seven stories and a novella weighs in at a slim 155 pages; what the book lacks in heft, however, it more than makes up for in mood. Hempel, the author of two other short-story collections, is a master of witty understatement. In "The Children's Party," the narrator gives some advice to a father whose children feel that getting a new dog after the old one was killed would be disloyal: "'Tell them this: The need for the new love is faithfulness to the old,'" to which the father replies, "'That's what I used to tell myself when I cheated on my ex-wife.'" In Hempel's stories, nothing much happens, yet everything changes.

The collection's title is taken from the novella, in which a woman committed to a psychiatric institution writes a letter to a famous painter she has only met once. The letter is written over the course of several days, and as the writer chronicles her life among the other patients, she reveals her wounded psyche and her struggle to find home, "the place where nothing can touch you." In one way or another, all of Hempel's characters are looking for home, but there is nothing epic in their voyages of discovery; rather, it is in the little things--the touch of an unshaven cheek, a school of bluefish leaping in the surf, a baby's grave--that Hempel captures a whole world of feeling.

From Booklist

This collection of stories explores characters who define themselves primarily through loss, especially loss revolving around "home." The narrator in "The New Lodger" returns to a familiar town but forgoes reunions and instead writes her friends postcards, to make her feel the "pull of the old home, pulling apart the new." In "The Annex," a new home owner establishes her sense of place in relation to a premature baby's gravesite, across the street, and to its still grieving mother. This and other stories, most only a few pages, are warm-ups for the novella, conceived as a letter by a young woman recovering in a rehabilitation facility, written to an artist she's seen once, briefly. The narrator struggles to define herself in relation to her mother, who has taken her own life, and the letter serves as narrative therapy, tracing the parallel challenges of self-understanding and narrative coherence--"No right place to begin" --and the relief of humor and wordplay--"Art has drawing power" --as well as the subtle perceptual shifts that can mark character transformation. Through these last Hemple deftly angles us into her character's world. Jim O'Laughlin
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (May 7, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684833751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684833750
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,700,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 11, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In a decade of flabby mass-dense but weightless prose, when PCs coax 800 page novels from 3 page brains and there is no fiction that has enough edge to cut soft butter, in a time when short stories are carelessly wrought retreads of rehashed earlier stories, inflicted on readers in the borrowed and depressing syntax of 1950's hackiest fictions, in these bleak days there is one writer, one yet, who still works to make us wince, or laugh out loud, or see the world made new. Look to her tropes, her figurings and how none of her stuff seems mannered, but it's all easy and natural and bright. Buy the book, friend.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By CoffeeGurl HALL OF FAME on November 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
...this is an amazing piece of work. I loved reading Tumble Home. This short-story collection is brief (only 160 pages long) and the stories are deceptively simple. But each story holds profound messages centered on family life and other every day events that may seem insignificant at first glance. My favorite stories are "Sportsman," "The New Lodger," "The Children's Party," and the novella "Tumble Home." Again, the stories are very short, but nevertheless beautiful. Amy Hempel's writing is sparse but possesses such beautiful prose that I just couldn't put this collection down. Hers is a voice that sounds poetic at times. I recommend this book to all short-story lovers.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Some of the stories in this book are really good, but others just aren't. Having read and been totally blown away by two of Amy Hempel's other short story collections, I found this a little bit disappointing. Stories are interesting enough, and pleasant enough to read but seem more generic than some of her earlier work. I felt like I could have read them and not recognized tht they were the work of this great author. Most disappointing of all was the novella. Long and rambling and if there was a point I didn't get it. For better books by Amy Hempel, I strongly suggest both Reasons To Live and At The Gates Of The Animal Kingdom.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Brandon S on May 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
Hempel's slim novella 'Tumble Home,' has a hypnotic prose that leaves the reader concentrating on every word. The short stories are so earthy you feel as if you're among family. Minimalism has never been used so effectively with Hempel's description of everyday americana.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Richard K. Weems on August 11, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Amy Hempel is a writer you don't want to read lazily. Even in her 70+ page title novella, you don't want to flash over a single syllable, for Hempel is an intensive writer of the unsaid, working with both what is on the page and what isn't to convey the complex emotions of her characters. Also, since many of her narrators or narratives are disjointed in some way (or, like in the title novella, unbalanced), their methods of storytelling are often indirect in form, but direct in emotion.

Hempel's clearest strength has to do with the unmediated emotions she creates in her prose. Rather than thoughtful response, she tends to first engage emotionally, throwing us squarely into a character's head, however uncomfortable that may be. In "Sportsman," for example, Jack has been turned out in an act of what he deems as betrayal, and so drives across the country to find solace. He is mistrusting, alone and heartbroken, and Hempel does not filter out what might be unpleasant about his situation for the sake of sentimentality. Instead, she engages it honestly (and wittily) to make Jack and his friends fleshed out and alive.

Not to say that Hempel works only on an emotional level. Her writing clearly has a lot of intellectual appeal. She exhibits great play with language and a magnificent ear for the quirks of conversation (any party scene in this book will hit you with smart dialogue you'll want to emulate), and her writing is surgically prescise, though maybe too precise at times.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By carriejc@cats.ucsc.edu on August 21, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Amy Hempel is an anorexic writer. She is right down to the bones. It's impossible to find any excessive or fat words in her text. Although easily digested, her words remain so chocked full of minerals, vitamins, and vitality that you simply cannot find another contemporary writer that gives you more of a reading work-out in so little time.
The short stories in this compilation live up to this streamlined reputation; however, the novella, Tumble Home, left me tumbling back to Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar and Gillman's feminist classic, The Yellow Wallpaper. I was left thinking that I had read it somewhere before, perhaps on a plane, or before a nap. No new territory here, but the prelude to it, the skinny part, makes it worth the voyage.
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By A Customer on August 21, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Amy Hempel is an anorexic writer. She is right down to the bones. It's impossible to find any excessive or fat words in her text. Although easily digested, her words remain so chocked full of minerals, vitamins, and vitality that you simply cannot find another contemporary writer that gives you more of a reading work-out in so little time.
The short stories in this compilation live up to this streamlined reputation; however, the novella, Tumble Home, left me tumbling back to Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar and Gillman's feminist classic, The Yellow Wallpaper. I was left thinking that I had read it somewhere before, perhaps on a plane, or before a nap. No new territory here, but the prelude to it, the skinny part, makes it worth the voyage.
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