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American Salvage (Made in Michigan Writers Series) Hardcover – January 4, 2010
"The Devil Wears Black" by L.J. Shen
From author L.J. Shen comes a second-chance romance about love, loss, finding yourself, and getting lost in the right person. | Learn more
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Most authors imitate life, while only a few create life. Bonnie Jo Campbell creates 'em then lets her create-lings live according to their own wills." (Carolyn Chute author of The School on Hearts Content Road)
At their best these stories reflect what Robert Lowell refers to as 'the grace of accuracy,' which might simply be a way of saying that the voice overall convinces at every turn. By voice I mean personality, and these quirky, surprising, sometimes arcane and visceral and big-hearted stories resonate in ways that keep me nodding. . . . I love the risk of each story and how, in the midst of hilarity, a much more serious concern unfolds so that I'd find myself both laughing out loud and squeezing my heart dry simultaneously." (Jack Driscoll author of How Like an Angel)
A strong collection. The pieces are rich in original detail, and highly atmospheric, while maintaining a satisfying sense of familiar territory, local voices." (Laura Kasischke author of The Life before Her Eyes and Lilies Without
American Salvage is not a book for the cowardly. These daring stories, these desperate characters, would just as soon steal your wallet, break your heart or punch you in the gut than openly admit that redemption is possible during these dark times. But it is just this improbable hope that makes her work brilliant. This is Bonnie Jo Campbell at her bravest and best. (Rachael Perry author of How to Fly)
American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell is a gritty, heart-wrenching collection of short stories that examines an America our leaders don't want us to see. You will want to turn your head as her stories unfold, but you know you will peek." Campbell reminds us that life isn't always pretty for our neighbors, friends, and relatives. These stories will bore deeply into your psyche, but they also speak of redemption and hope for us all. (Lansing Online News)
While each story stands well alone, as a whole they create an original and irreplaceable portrait of a struggling class of Americans. Her observations are relentlessly honest-no one is spared. But Campbell is a writer who feels deeply for even her most flawed characters, and this is ultimately what makes each of them impossible to forget." (Third Coast)
Beware ye who enter here,' and yet your should and must because the work is so fine and truthful and deeply human. And you will surely know yourself and your world better for having come." (Small Press Review)
These fine-tuned stories are shaped by stealthy wit, stunning turns of events, and breath-taking insights. Campbell's busted-broke, damaged, and discarded people are rich in longing, valor, forgiveness and love, and readers themselves will feel salvaged and transformed by the gutsy book's fierce compassion." (Booklist)
Campbell's an American voice - two parts healthy fear, one part awe, one part irony, one part realism." (Los Angeles Times)
The effects of American Salvage, with just with into its third printing and has only been out three months, is that Campbell's Michigan lingers and cannot be ignored or forgotten. (Chicago Literary Scene Examiner)
In these stories about cold, lonely, meth-drenched, working-class Michigan life, there's a certain beauty reaching something like the sublimity of a D.H. Lawrence story. Few of the stories have endings that seem resolved. Because of their despairing feel, and their shape and form, they seem quite lifelike." (Chicago Tribune)
Her writing is raw, precise and unflinching, breaking down our picture of the human condition and throwing it back onto the scattered pile of puzzle pieces that best represent it. . . . As brutal as the details are, Campbell's tales feel like prayers that float upward, those for the poor, the addicted, the lost, and the forgotten. Stunning stuff." (METROTIMES)
I came away from reading American Salvage not only thinking about its literary beauty, but looking at people differently, thinking about their lives, pondering how writing about such damaged, luminous fictional characters can engender, if only momentarily, empathy and compassion, an altered way of seeing. . . . It's a book to take to heart. (Skip Renker, 360 Main Street 360 Main Street)
The stories in American Salvage know what it means to occupy landscapes in which humans are outnumbers by animals and in which nature, beautiful and indifferent, rushes in to fill the physical and emotional distances between individuals. Campbell's stories explore what is uniquely human: the grinding exercise of patience, the headlong pursuit of desire. American Salvage captures its subject so convincingly, and from such surprising angles, that even a reader comfortable with the trappings of contemporary rural fiction may feel Campbell's rural ache as if for the first time. (Fiction Writers Review)
Bonnie Jo Campbell's short story collection American Salvage is a beer-soaked, debt-filled, unflinching portrayal of the struggles of blue collar America. . . Her ability to reveal characters' flaws with such ease is a testament not only to her writing, but to her ability to probe well beneath the surface, exploring American troubles-drug addiction, poverty-as if intimately acquainted with them. . . . Campbell's stark, unapologetic glimpses of modest men lost in the modern world offer a heart-wrenching but necessary critique of an often overlooked people. (Pleiades Press)
One reads feeling as if we, like the characters peopling a post-industrial land, are on the edge-a way of life ended, or begun; the ground quaking beneath our feet."
In American Salvage, Bonnie Jo Campbell picks through the ravages of a small-town America gutted by shifting demographics, new technology, and methamphetamine. Eschewing nostalgia or bitterness, she leads with her curiosity, using canny observation and sensuous prose to coax the reader into dark, strange, primordial territory. (National Book Award Judges' Citation)
The stories in American Salvage know what it means to occupy landscapes in which humans are outnumbers by animals and in which nature, beautiful and indifferent, rushes in to fill the physical and emotional distances between individuals. Campbells stories explore what is uniquely human: the grinding exercise of patience, the headlong pursuit of desire. American Salvage captures its subject so convincingly, and from such surprising angles, that even a reader comfortable with the trappings of contemporary rural fiction may feel Campbells rural ache as if for the first time. (Fiction Writers Review)
Literary Hub's "The Best Short Stories from the Heart of the Country"
in Martin's book, methamphetamine is an ominous presence in these seemingly innocent lands. American Salvage, a finalist for the National Book Award, opens with "The Trespasser."
A father, mother, and teenage daughter enter their vacation cabin to find a burnt-out stove and destroyed kitchen where three men and a teenage girl have cooked meth. The two girls portrayed in this story have lived wildly different lives-one protected by an intact family, gymnastics trophies, and swim lessons; the other a runaway who trades her body for drugs. Campbell does a masterful job with the ending of the tale, bringing the dangers that sex and the outer world hold into the vulnerable naiveté of a Midwestern family.(Donna Baer Stein Literary Hub 2019-04-04)
- Publisher : Wayne State University Press; 1st edition (January 4, 2010)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 192 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0814334865
- ISBN-13 : 978-0814334867
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5 x 0.65 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,349,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Of the 14 stories, I scored only 4 as being approximately average ("C"). The rest scored "B" or "A" -- which is pretty good, in my experience of reading books of short stories. I did not rate any in the "D" or "F" range.
My favorite story: "The Inventor, 1972"
Others that are almost as good: Bringing Belle Home; King Coles' American Salvage; Fuel for the Millennium
Least favorite: "The Trespasser" . Too short to develop any significant action, event, character, or reason for being. Sort of a flash-in-the-pan event, contrasting a middle-class girl's life with a vagrant meth-head girl's life. Not a bad idea, but an idea that needs further development.
The book's cover deserves mention: excellent design/photograph. Don't know if this photo was simply "found" and used by the designer, or if the photo was "commissioned" for the book. (I have no idea how these details are carried out). But, the cover photo, with its sepia tone (overall) and the red dress "popping" on the woman in the foreground (with her unusual, stiff, stance) is quite arresting (for some reason). I picture it as corresponding to the story "The Yard Man". I keep looking at it for some reason. Odd, but true.
Campbell's currency is the tragedy of everyday life, of people living on the margins of society, teetering toward financial and personal ruin. Meth, alcohol, crime and violence all play their part, and many of the characters are reminiscent of people I know, family members and old friends long gone. There is a indisputable honesty and truth to these stories, and though they might not always hit every beat, they always vividly bring their characters to life.
Like other readers, I am reminded of Denis Johnson's beautiful Jesus' Son (probably my favorite book of all time), although there is no central narrator to tie the stories together. Campbell's use of language and the original lives and situations she crafts are nearly as good as Johnson's, and each story ends on an emotional swell that sticks with you long after you've finished it.
Campbell has lived among these people. Hell, probably many of them are friends of hers. And she sees value in these beaten down people consigned to the junkyards of American society. She knows God doesn't make junk. She looks for the core, for the valuable, for the soul. She looks for the salvageable. This will be a hard sell to recommend. The subject is just too blatantly bleak. But this woman can write! - Tim Bazzett, author of PINHEAD: A LOVE STORY
Top reviews from other countries
All in all, a much expected and anticipated collection, and, in the end, nothing to write home about, really.