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Difficult Women Hardcover – January 3, 2017
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Praise for Difficult Women:
“The characters who inhabit Difficult Women . . . aren’t just characters. They are our mothers, sisters and partners. They are human. They are us . . . Gay manages to capture entire lifetimes, painstakingly sketching women, the underlying drives that give them their shape and the indignities that color the lenses through which they see the world . . . These are real stories about real experiences and women seeking, deserving happy endings. They aren’t victims but survivors. Gay makes mosaics out of these women, seeing them as perfectly imperfect wholes in a world that routinely tries to break them down to pieces.”― USA Today (4/4 stars)
“Gay has fun with these ladies. Her narrative games aren’t rulesy. She plays with structure and pacing . . . She moves easily from first to third person, sometimes within a single story. She creates worlds that are firmly realist and worlds that are fantastically far-fetched . . . With Difficult Women, you really have no idea what’s going to happen next.”― New York Times Book Review
“The real gift to readers in Difficult Women is [Gay’s] ability to marry her well-known intellectual concerns with good storytelling . . . Gay excels in her allowance for human complexity . . . One of the book’s greatest achievements is Gay’s psychological acuity in the creation of female characters who are teeming with dissonance and appealing self-awareness . . . In a dark and modern way, this collection celebrates the post-traumatic enlightenment of women.” ―Washington Post
“In these bittersweet lives, Gay finds fierce tenacity that bends but doesn’t always break . . . Because Gay is such a vivid writer, her stories have a remarkable visual sweep. She puts her readers there . . . Gay’s women are complicated, broken in places, and misdirected . . . In Difficult Women, Gay gives these often-overlooked lives color and meaning. From a ramshackle Michigan trailer park to the affluence and ennui of a gated community in Florida ― and myriad points in between ― Gay writes of chances missed and unexpected joy, love gone awry or resurrected, and the slivers of hope that keep these fascinating women alive.” ―Boston Globe
“Gay’s signature dry wit and piercing psychological depth make every story mesmerizingly unusual and simply unforgettable.”― Harper Bazaar
“The stories, phenomenally powerful and beautifully written, demonstrate the threats so many women in reality face, but also how, whatever their situation, they have agency, resilience and identities away from stereotypes created and reinforced by men.”― The Guardian (UK)
“This collection begs for a slow, serious reading.”― Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Gay expands her writing prowess with this collection featuring colorful women protagonists . . . Refreshing yet intricate . . . This work will appeal to lovers of literary and feminist fiction.”―Library Journal (starred review)
“Gay brings the powerful voice that flows through her work as a novelist and cultural critic to the 21 short stories in her first collection . . . Gay’s ‘difficult women’ are unforgettable.”― BBC.com
“Gay tells intimate, deep, wry tales of jaggedly dimensional women . . . Be they writer, scientist, or stripper, Gay’s women suffer grave abuses, mourn unfathomable losses, love hard, and work harder.”―Booklist
“A powerful collection of short stories about difficult, troubled, headstrong, and unconventional women . . . Whether focusing on assault survivors, single mothers, or women who drown their guilt in wine and bad boyfriends, Gay’s fantastic collection is challenging, quirky, and memorable.”―Publishers Weekly
“A collection of short stories that will make your spine tingle with intrigue.” ―Bustle.com
“Astonishing, arresting, and staggering.”―Book Riot
“Unified in theme―the struggles of women claiming independence for themselves―but wide-ranging in conception and form . . . Gay is an admirable risk-taker in her exploration of women’s lives and new ways to tell their stories.”―Kirkus Reviews
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Top Customer Reviews
There were times it was just a bit much for me though. There were times the stories seemed to make no sense. I mean, can someone please explain to me the meaning of the air machine story? In my personal taste, it was far from my favorite book. It's very dark and void of hope. It left me searching for meaning in the stories as a whole.
These are stories about people (mostly women) seeking to fill their hollow spaces however they can. They're gritty and direct and real and utterly devoid of sentimentality. Gay's characters accept life for what it is—all its ugliness, all its complexity—and there's something strangely refreshing and comforting about that.
The subject matter is demanding and unrelenting; this is not a happy collection, though it's by no means maudlin. Being human isn't pretty, but there's beauty in that. If that statement resonates with you, so too will these fierce, gutting stories.
The only thing that distracted me was the repetition of theme (beyond the obvious manifestation of the book's title throughout) and some language. I wondered, while I read, how intentional that was. But once I learned the stories had been previously published, I thought that maybe it wasn't super intentional, and just a consistency in the way Ms. Gay writes. But then again it was kind of nice to think about how the language strung the stories together, and how elements of later stories reminded me of earlier ones. So much to think about it! I'll be thinking about this book for a long time.
Highly recommended. I will keep this one on my shelf forever (when I'm not lending it to friends).