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Showing 1-10 of 33 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 61 reviews
on January 26, 2015
4.5 STARS -- a very good collection of short stories, with well-defined characters. Strong, well-written interior monolog characterizes many of the stories. Character development is a strong-point in these stories, which many other authors fail to achieve in their short stories. As a consequence, the "action" is often a specific event or slice of life -- not typically a "whodunnit" or other action-oriented story line. Not a lot "happens". The characters' responses (thoughts and actions) to a life-event is the story-line. The short story "King Cole's American Salvage" is an exception, in that it does have a significant storyline that is propelled forward over a time period. Well-constructed, believable rural characters, in a short-story format makes this book a keeper. The characters are sympathetic and likeable. This contrasts with the characters developed in another book of rural short stories,"Crimes In Southern Indiana" by Frank Bill -- where the rural characters are mostly violent, crude, and definitely not likeable. This is a big contrast. I think "American Salvage" has the better writing.

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.
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on May 14, 2010
In a literary world where disposable books about shopaholics, arm candy and upper middle class angst are all the rage, it's nice to discover a book devoted to the lives of ordinary people. Sure, the stories in American Salvage may never get turned into hit films, but they offer up a look at American life lacking from much of today's contemporary literary fiction. The struggles of the white working class, often forgotten in the popular imagination, are the focus of this incredible collection of stories. So incredible that American Salvage was nominated for a National Book Award, which is nearly unheard of for short story collections.

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.

Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon January 16, 2014
Every now and then a collection comes along, so cohesive and wrenching, that it demands attention. Many collections these days are considered "linked," forming a loose novel, but this collection is more solidly linked through subject matter. The characters here represent people I'd probably cross the street to avoid, not giving them a second thought, but Campbell has imbued each with an inner life that transcends their hardscrabble, in many cases off-the-grid lives. She has a sure hand in writing about people so marginalized they seem irredeemable, and yet, I found myself pulling for many of them.
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on September 4, 2011
If you are from or know anyone from the Midwest this book will resonate with you. It will bring you back to your roots if you are from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky. It's all about life as we observed it growing up before we reached another rung on the ladder, pulled ourselves up and moved to other parts of the country. It makes you appreciate your life and makes you think about what matters most about yourself. It's one of the best books I have ever read.

If you are not from the Midwest, and have lived elsewhere all your life then picking up this book will provide you with a peephole in the Rust Belt and some of the people that live on the fringes of society.
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on July 24, 2011
From the first page of this extraordinary collection of short stories, it was clear that I was in the hands of a truly gifted writer. Bonnie Jo Campbell's lyrical language, the intensity of her characterization, and the sometimes devastating but riveting situations in each story, impressed me so much that I've assigned this book in the college literature and creative writing classes that I teach.

There are few people writing today who have as sympathetic and as keen an understanding of the flaws that can make a person's life a thing of beauty, but also fill it with one debilitating disappointment after another. Two of my favorite stories in the collection, "The Yard Man" and "King Cole's American Salvage," will have you thinking about the male protagonists, the ill-fated decisions they've made, and the economically depressed area where they live, long after you finish the last paragraphs.
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on September 21, 2016
Excellent, unusually hard-hitting stories largely about poor people, farmers and drug addicts in the Kalamazoo, MI, area. Some I found rather hard to read but I could still tell they are very well-done, each very different from the others. Dark.
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on November 15, 2013
Absolutely incredible read. I actually grew up in Comstock, Michigan, where some stories in this collection seem to be based. I recognize local landmarks, and the sorrow and desolation that fills that sad little town really comes through in Bonnie Jo's work. She has truly captured the void of loss and poverty and abuse that afflicts many such small towns across the Midwest. I would recommend to anyone.
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on December 5, 2010
This book reveals a hidden America. A small town America inhabited by ordinary people with dreams of a life and a future which unfortunately are blocked by economic, political, and social forces beyond their control. The various stories depict their struggles to cope with such circumstances and how their coping strategies often make things worse Many of the stories also depict some of the dysfunctional common personal relationships which are dstructive in terms of happiness for people everywhere in this world. The stories are engaging. The prose is vivid and economical and effective in eliciting sympathy for the individuals described who are realistically human in all respects.
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on May 9, 2016
Excellent book of short stories. Since I was born and raised in the area she speaks of, it was especially fun for me to read. Bonnie Jo Campbell is one talented writer. I'll read everything she's written now.
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on April 29, 2013
I love the author's ability to write about a large segment of our society which goes unacknowledged by most of the reading population. She describes them and their lives vividly while portraying them so we can recognize the human dilemma, spirit and feelings. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in expanding their awareness of the broader population.
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