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Who Do You Love: Stories Paperback – November 2, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Scribner Paperback Fiction ed edition (November 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743203011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743203012
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #896,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Unrequited love is an old standard, but in Who Do You Love Jean Thompson hauls it out of the hope chest and makes it new. Her territory is the passionate, off-kilter intersection between women and men who have long ago resigned themselves to lovelessness and deep disappointment. In her third collection of short stories, people "don't say that much, but don't expect to. The old grievances, failure, and shame are turning into history, inch by inch." Not that they don't struggle against their fates. A policeman answers a routine call and looks to make a difference in a single mother's life, to ruinous consequences. A widower is forced to put his house up for sale, and proceeds to haunt the young couple who move in with his unending grief. Against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, a young girl witnesses the battle raging in her house between her veteran father and patriotic mother.

Thompson skinny-dips into her characters' skulls. We eavesdrop on their most private thoughts, their justifications and reversals of conscience, as they weigh fleeting passions against long-term longings. Anyone want to place a wager on what wins out in the end? While they lazily play out moments of moral turpitude in unassuming settings, these characters observe the scenery with a constant supply of devastating dialogue. Witness Benny in "The Little Heart," as she carries on a conversation with Pete, a lover half her age: "You are the most beautiful creature. Hush. You are. I'm crazy about you. Throwing caution to the winds here." Lesser writers would stop right there, leaving the passage flat and artless, but listen to the bomb Thompson drops in the very next line: "Do you know I've been menstruating for longer than you've been alive?" Who Do You Love can occasionally fall into the variations-on-a-theme category, but there's nothing tedious here. Thompson's prose is often witty and her delvings into seaminess--drugs, flings, futile jobs--are never patronizing or sensational. In her world there's always a little room left over at the end for grace. --Ryan Boudinot --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Lost souls populate the bleak terrain of Thompson's collection of 15 remarkable stories, most of which have appeared previously in prestigious magazines and prize collections. These hapless folk live precariously, seemingly trapped in an endless gray November; driving long distances to escape their pasts, only to confront new obstacles. Thompson occasionally spices her dead-on dialogue with flinty humor to counter the despair. Seminal moments abound, flashing back to 1967 in "The Amish," where 10-year-old Barbara attends a campus protest with her father, Don, a former career soldier wounded in Vietnam, and hears him speak out passionately against the war. Elsewhere, do-gooders risk everything: Quinn, a well-meaning city cop working the graveyard shift, tries to save a woman's soul, then loses his heart to her in the process; social worker Judy Applebee of the title story faces the futility of her job, realizing she can never improve her clients' miserable lives. In "Forever," a veteran reporter investigates a grisly small-town murder and meets the victim's innocent, grief-shattered boyfriend. Other stories center around heroin addiction, nursing homes, a kidnapping and the recovered memory movement. In less-skilled hands, these short narratives might seem grim and the characters hopelessly downtrodden, but Thompson, novelist and author of two critically acclaimed short-story collections (e.g., The Gasoline Wars), is smart enough to infuse even the saddest situation with a wry glimmer of hope. Comparisons to Raymond Carver's spare eloquence are apt, given Thompson's ability to deftly inscribe, while ennobling, her characters' isolation and suffering.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Each short story is its own, self-contained world that belongs to the reader as much as the characters.
D. E. Baker
I haven't read Jean Thompson's earlier work, but I plan to after reading this collection, and I look forward to more stories from her.
sandra loux
The stories have an intelligence to them and while melancholy in nature, there is a stunning use of wit as well.
Daniel E. Wickett

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Daniel E. Wickett on February 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
It is appalling that a writer of Jean Thompson's talent needs to have her book nominated for the National Book Award before a store like Borders will carry more than one copy of her work. It is appalling as well, that said store will only carry copies of the work that was nominated, not her other two short story collections or two novels. I read her original collection of short stories, "The Gasoline Wars," about ten years ago and was extremely impressed. I wasn't even aware of the three published works in between that and this newest collection.
"Who Do You Love" is a fantastic collection of stories dealing with sad individuals, at difficult times in their lives, reacting to various stages of their latest love interests. The collection takes us through various landscapes, from the northwest rainy Oregon all the way to the grubby southeast states. The individuals vary from young to old; the only constants being the state of sadness, and the fact that the reader cares about them.
It is Thompson's use of language that is most impressive. There are times where she goes above and beyond what you would expect in her character dialogues or descriptions. There is a specific point that you find yourself believing most writers would have stopped, but she goes on and does so successfully. Only a confident writer would go this far. As an observer, she obviously has a tremendous ear. You find yourself re-reading full sections of her work just in appreciation of her art. She is by no means a minimalist but she does not waste a word. The stories have an intelligence to them and while melancholy in nature, there is a stunning use of wit as well.
Search out her work and put it on your shelf next to the Huddle's and Bell's and others who have mastered this craft.
5 stars.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Recently nominated for the National Book Award for fiction, this collection deserves its honors. I was blown away. Thompson's strength is her ability to choose details from the palette of life and apply them carefully to a story's canvas. From these pieces emerge fully fleshed people caught in moments of heartache and then moving on. Never "telling" us anything, she shows it all through wonderful language. This diverse collection shows her range--no two stories sound alike. I consider that an achievement, considering these stories were written over a period of several years. She's a writer who doesn't go back to the same well, but moves on. That's great.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Though Jean Thompson was nominated for the National Book Award last year (and should have won, in my opinion), it is almost bewildering to me that her work is not as well-known as some of her contemporaries. This collection is a masterpiece by a writer whose sensibility blends dark and gritty subject matter with sublime language -- a bit like Alice Munro in tone, though at once both more stylized and more viscerally felt, unlikely as that may seem. The opening piece, "All Shall Love Me and Despair" (which was included in the 1996 Best American Short Stories) is as gorgeous as the Oregon coast that is its setting, as unsettling as its compassionate depiction of the character Scout's battles with heroin addiction, and as heartfelt as the woman, Annie, who tries to love him. Another fine piece is the story "Mercy," a close character portrait of a nightshift police officer and his relationship or lack thereof with a tough, unforgiving woman whose reckless son dies in a car accident. The 15 stories collected in this book date as far back as 1988 and represent a substantial body of work that deserves great acclaim and attention. I can't say enough about Thomspson's stories. They are simply marvelous.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Jean Thompson's Who Do You Love is an incredible collection of short stories featuring lives in various states of repair. Her turn of phrase is absolutely remarkable--I found myself re-reading paragraphs just to savor the stunning expression. The reader cares about every character. This collection is a real work of art--if I worked in a bookstore, I would press this book into the hands of every intelligent customer who loves Alice Hoffman, Elizabeth Berg, Barbara Kingsolver, and Flannery O'Connor. Thank you, Jean Thompson!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "obxgrl" on June 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is excellently written. The prose is beautiful and the characters are expansive. Many of the characters have their misfortunes happening at some other time and place and are currently just getting by in the daily grind of a disappointing life. The landscapes in the book are various and wonderful, stretching from Oregon's drippy coastline to the south east.
The characters themselves range from young children to grandparents, all with challenging preoccupations that inform and color the stories. The stories are organized in the TOC as "Who We Love," "Other Lives," and "Spirits." It seems that every character in the book has a measure of each of these qualities: life is continuous though love may not be, for whatever reason, and the sense of spirit is integral to the characters and landscapes. The author's organization of the stories helps a lot to convey a sense of the progression and permeability of sadness.
A sense of melancholy and loss saturates both the landscapes and the characters who inhabit them, even when they seem to be enjoying themselves. It is for the sadness alone that I rated the book at three stars.
The stories I liked best were: The Amish, Antarctica, Poor Helen, Forever, and All Shall Love Me and Despair.
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