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Astray Paperback – Large Print, October 30, 2012
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*Starred Review* Inspired by various newspaper articles and stories from the last four centuries, Booker Prize finalist Donoghue’s (Room, 2010) masterful new short story collection explores the ways people’s lives can take unexpected and unprepared-for turns. A fallen woman in Victorian England supports herself and her child by the only means available to her until her younger brother comes up with another option. As the Civil War rages on, a slave and his mistress plot a daring escape. A bitter Puritan seeks revenge upon two women who spurned him. A woman sails toward Canada to join her husband, not knowing he’s fallen gravely ill with cholera. A lawyer sets his sights on a wealthy young widow who seeks his help. A young woman makes a startling discovery about her politically powerful father after his death in New York City at the dawn of the twentieth century. Donoghue details the particular historical source that inspired her at the end of each story, and she discusses how each one fits in with her overall theme in the afterword. Revolutionary-era New Jersey, Civil War–era Texas, the gold rush Yukon, and many other settings come to life in this wonderfully imaginative, transporting collection. --Kristine Huntley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Time and again, Emma Donoghue writes books that are unlike anything I have ever seen before, and ASTRAY is no exception. There is such a deep and compassionate imagination at work in every story in this collection that ASTRAY feels almost like an act of clairvoyance."―-Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder
"Emma Donoghue is one of the great literary ventriloquists of our time. Her imagination is kaleidoscopic. She steps borders and boundaries with great ease and style. In her hands the centuries dissolve, and then they crystallize back again into powerful words on the page."―Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
"This book demonstrates once again that there's little she can't do well; indeed, the afterword is as moving as the stories....The short story can be a precious, self-enclosed form, but in Donoghue's bold hands, it crosses continents and centuries to claim kinship with many kinds of people.... Another exciting change of pace from the protean Donoghue."―Kirkus Reviews
"...Masterful.... Revolutionary-era New Jersey, Civil War-era Texas, the gold rush Yukon, and many other settings come to life in this wonderfully imaginative, transporting collection."―Kristine Huntley, Booklist (Starred Review)
"Donoghue applies her talents for characterization and depth of feeling over and over again as she documents restless wanderers and lost souls across four generations, each in a world as strange and real as the last."―Emily Temple, Flavorpill
"Donoghue's affinity for yesteryear's untold tales is charming, and her talent for dialect is hard to overstate, which is why it's the first-person stories in ASTRAY that shine brightest....Each and every one of Donoghue's characters leaves an impression."―Time
"Donoghue establishes a distinct voice and person [and] the stories are vivid, curious, and honest..."―Publishers Weekly
"[The] tales...feel like discoveries, stories that were waiting to be told."―Stephan Lee, Entertainment Weekly
"This collection is filled with such acts of imaginative sympathy-each chiseling all that one can, from what Donoghue aptly describes as 'the shadowy mass of all that's been lost.'"―Mike Fischer, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"The stories are taut, vivid and memorable, and the collection reveals Donoghue's remarkable gift for placing herself in the minds of people who otherwise might be lost to history."―Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch
"The stories are showcases for a wide range of speaking voices studded with period vernacular."―Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
"Fans of... Room will recognize the same imaginative flexibility and ventriloquism in ASTRAY, only multiplied and lightly patinated.... A refreshing break from the trend of linked collections; each story is entirely discrete, and strong enough to be read in isolation."―Holloway McCandless, Shelf Awareness
"Haunting.... These seekers and their stories pull you in-and stir your heart."―People (4 stars)
"Splendid.... "[An] original and compelling collection."―Mameve Medwed, The Boston Globe
"From England, Canada and the United States, Donoghue has created a restless world of travelers, finders and seekers, as well as a book that is an interactive narrative hybrid, one that gets us lost in other lives, that probes our history, that reveals the artist behind the word and that ultimately shows us something fresh, unsettling and enduring about ourselves."―Caroline Leavitt, The San Francisco Chronicle
"Sensitive and intuitive...moves fearlessly between centuries and between genders.... Donoghue displays a ventriloquist's uncanny ability to slip in and out of voices....[and she] reveals them all, in their place of exile, with gentle yet devastating truth."―Brooke Allen, The New York Times Book Review
"Donoghue is...something of a literary archaeologist, speaking in voices that have been lost.... Donoghue's empathic imagination is remarkable...so convincing that the reader feels these stories could be actual historical narratives."―Patricia Hagen, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"A rich roster of tales [and] a real adventure in reading.... Donoghue's gift for storytelling is remarkable...."―Sandy Leonard, Lambda Literary
"Donoghue is gifted at imagining narrators from all walks of life.... Anyone who appreciates a well-told tale will enjoy these 14 short stories. It's perfect for the bedside table or the quiet commute-rich tales by a writer near the top of her game."―Rob Merrill, Associated Press
"Gentle yet devastating..."―The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)
"Donoghue's ASTRAY masters the long reach of short tales.... What is most impressive about these stories is her ability to plumb historical footnotes for timeless emotional resonance and reanimate 'real people who left traces in the historical record.'"―Heller McAlpin, The Washington Post
"[An] intriguing new story collection...Change is inevitable for the migrant-and for us all. In ASTRAY, Donoghue makes us tremble at the idea and revel in its possibilities."―Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald
"We were interested to see if [Donoghue's] third-person narration skills translated well into the oftentimes more complicated vernacular of adults hailing from different eras and different corners of the globe.... In our opinion, she succeeded."―The Huffington Post
"Dazzling.... [A]ll the voices are so distinct, the plots so diverse, that the reading experience is a bit like nibbling from a long, strange, trippy literary buffet. Comedy, history, legal drama, political intrigue, adventure...all served up side by side in one volume. It's wonderful."―Maggie Galehouse, The Houston Chronicle
"Reading ASTRAY is a bit like watching a magician create a wondrous illusion before you and then reveal a few enticing hints as to how she did it."―Tarra Gaines, Houston Cultural Map
"A well-written collection of short stories that go back and forth between despair and hope."―Bobby Blanchard, The Daily Texan
"Donoghue breathes life into stories that seem like nothing more than footnotes in the grand scheme of history, but are important reminders of all the little things we miss looking at the big picture."―Sharra Rosichan, The Tennessean
"Her new and splendid collection...is all about breaking through barriers."―Boston Globe
"These stories are striking for their range and freedom.... One senses cumulatively throughout this book the capacious curiosity of Emma Donoghue's mind, and the breadth of her knowledge.... Never dull, these stories illuminate worlds like a magic lantern....Donoghue's imagination can alight upon almost anything and revivify it."―Claire Messud, The New York Review of Books
"ASTRAY is an exceptional uniting of history and imagination."―Jake Cline, The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
"A beautifully rendered collection of hauntingly vivid short stories.... Redolent with historical details, Donoghue's tales are enthralling.... Each story is so complete that there's a sense of mourning as one comes to a close, but also a thrill as to what she will come up with next.... She could not have assembled a richer cast of characters. We sense Donoghue's compassion for all of them-even the least appealing ones like the ultra-judgmental Englishman who settles in Yarmouth or the Illinois counterfeiters who conspired to steal Abraham Lincoln's corpse. Gorgeously written and thoroughly engrossing, ASTRAY captures the uncertainty and complexity of settling into unknown turf. The voices of her characters reverberate in our heads, long after putting the book down."―Claudia Puig, USA Today (4 stars)
"[Donoghue is] one of those rare literary alchemists who can deliver a story that is both sensationally suspenseful and richly satisfying in the artistry of its sentences and the depth and seriousness of its themes."―Ed Tarkington and Chapter16.org, Nashville Scene
"Emma Donoghue's characters seem thoroughly unique and alive."―Tobias Carroll, Time Out New York
"Illuminating.... [and] affecting..."―Eileen Weiner, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"The characters in Emma Donoghue's solid collection ASTRAY are on the move and similarly are sure to move readers."―Natalie Danford, American Way
"A strong collection.... Donoghue is first rate.... Real people can't go backward, but writers can, and Donoghue does so with great success."―Susan Balée, The Hudson Review
"The author of Room displays her mastery at inventing the speech of the most unlikely characters in this story collection.... How do people sound? That's one of the primary concerns of a writer. Get that right, and everything follows. Donoghue gets it right, as anyone who's read Room would know.... Donoghue reads like she takes a dry eraser and deletes chunks of letters and words-there's something constantly missing, and parts of the world are a mystery. But isn't that how we think to ourselves, as Joyce demonstrated, skipping over the river of thoughts and refusing to bother explaining the obvious or the visual? With such ingenuity, Donoghue achieves the effect of creating magic and wonder in the real world. To follow Donoghue into the unknown is one of the most pleasurable experiences I can think of."―Jimmy So, The Daily Beast
"Wildly informative and engaging.... Donoghue...throws the windows of the world open in fourteen stories of wanderlust, exploration, and possibilities promised by new and unknown lands.... By giving us true stories of wanderers and vagabonds in search of broader vistas, Donoghue has given narrative weight to both the journey and the destination. And in offering up history newly made into stories, Donoghue makes the journey of literary reinvention into its own reward."―Jessica Freeman-Slade, The Millions
"In...ASTRAY...imagination becomes possibility.... Moving through the centuries with her short stories, Donoghue turns everyday situations and period-piece slice-of-life situations into something of which O. Henry and Paul Harvey would be proud. Indeed, some of these tales start with a little sleight of word, poking our emotions in one way, then slowly twisting them into another direction before giving us the real story. You never know where these tales will end, and that's a good thing."―Terri Schlichenmeyer, Washington Blade
"A marvel of imagination, in which Donoghue utilizes items she's found over the years...to create unforgettable stories about change..."―Nina Sankovitch, The Huffington Post
Top customer reviews
In a revealing Afterword, Donoghue says the idea for "Astray" came from her own experience as a two-time emigrant. She moved from her native Dublin to England for higher education, and from England to Canada for love and a family. She knows what it feels like to be a "stray" or "astray," and tells the stories of dozens of characters who are either departing, in transit or arriving at some destination, whether a physical place or a key point in their lives. The 14 stories are divided into those three categories: Departures, In Transit, and Arrivals and Aftermaths.
Each story is based on a historical person or event Donoghue uncovered in some old newspaper or archive. She brings these people and events to life by imagining their backstories and motivations. Many of the stories are told in the first person, and she is particularly adept at inhabiting the characters' psyches and expressing their feelings in the dialects, idioms and cadences of their time, place and culture.
I found "Counting the Days" and "The Lost Seed" especially good. "Counting the Days" is about a family fleeing the Irish famine of the 1840s. It juxtaposes the thoughts of an anxious wife crossing the Atlantic with the struggles of her husband who has gone before and is awaiting her in Quebec. "The Lost Seed" is quite different, a rather unpleasant but powerful tale of self-hatred and hypocrisy in Plymouth Colony in the 1630s.
Although Donoghue has been published since the mid-1990s, I had the pleasure of discovering her work in just the past year and have devoured most of her books. Her range is remarkable. Her novels, short stories, fairy tales and academic volumes are written with a clarity that makes them accessible to all readers. Whether dead serious or light in tone (there are some laugh-out-loud stories and a great piece of erotica in her collection Touchy Subjects), Donoghue never fails to be both entertaining and insightful. Slammerkin is as perfect a novel as has ever been written and is increasingly recognized as a modern classic. Room: A Novel is a thriller with great depth, an epic of survival and a profound ode to motherhood.
In the Afterword to "Astray," Donoghue says that Charles Dickens is her favorite novelist. I'm not surprised. Her prose is actually leaner than his, but in all the essentials she matches the master: great plotting, rich characters and a blazing moral intelligence. All are evident in "Astray."
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This is a compilation of short stories taken from newspaper articles, diaries and letters written between the 1600s and 1900s.Read more