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Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned: Stories Hardcover – March 17, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The stories in this outstanding debut collection explore the troubled relationships of men down on their luck, in failed marriages, estranged from family, caught in imbroglios between sons and their fathers and stepfathers, and even, in Wild America, the subtle and ferocious competition between teenage girls. Bob Monroe, the protagonist of The Brown Coast, loses his job, his inheritance and his wife after the death of his father. The narrator of Down Through the Valley, meanwhile, is persuaded to drive his ex-wife's boyfriend home from an ashram after he injures himself. In Leopard, the threat of a missing pet leopard lurking in the woods hints at a troubled 11-year-old's rage toward his stepfather. The narrator of Down Through the Valley has a savage freak-out that terrifies him. The strange and magnificent title story, in which Vikings set off again toward an oft-raided island, beautifully ties the collection together in its heartbreaking final paragraph. Tower's uncommon mastery of tone and wide-ranging sympathy creates a fine tension between wry humor and the primal rage that seethes just below the surface of each of his characters. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Critics described this collection as visceral, contemplative, and inappropriately side-splitting, and were captivated by tales of men and their roles as fathers, stepfathers, brothers, sons, husbands, and ex-husbands (only one story featured a female protagonist). Reviewers further marveled at Tower’s ability to take readers from gut-clutching hilarity to gloomy introspection and back again in compact, descriptive language. Although critics disagreed about which stories were the best, only the Boston Globe cited “weaker,” “choppy,” and “overlong” entries. Overall, Tower has created a stunning collection of stories that will linger in the hearts and minds of readers.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
Top customer reviews
I #lovelovelove the story "Leopard," which appears in the middle of the collection. I'd read it before in The New Yorker (You can read it here) and loved it then. It's about a little kid who fakes sick to stay home from school. His step dad-a royal bastard-knows he's faking it and makes him pick up the mail. The mailbox is quite a ways away since they live in the country and the kid has this inner monologue about how it's so unfair that his "almost a psychopath" step-dad would be so insensitive as to let his "sick" step-son walk half a mile to pick up the mail. Then he has this great idea of pretending to pass out on the road so his mom will find him there and feel really bad. Anyway, a police man shows up and everything gets SUPER tense. The whole story is this dramatic build-up. I kept thinking WHEN is the step-dad going to snap and attack the kid with that axe??
The other story that I liked a lot was "Retreat" about two brothers that sort of hate each other, but it all seems to be because of one misunderstanding after another since childhood. The older brother buys some land out in the boonies and invites the younger one to come hangout with him. He's trying to get the younger one to invest in the property so that they can turn it for a profit. Then they kill a diseased moose, which is kind of a metaphor for their entire relationship.
The other stories in the book share common themes of divorce, heart-break, retreat from society, and a desire to reconnect with nature. The stories all have male protagonists and just sort of end without obvious conclusion. They are simply slice-of-life and I LOVE that.
Then, out of now where, the collection ends with "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned." It's set in a different time when people live in huts and tents and fight neighboring tribes. This story features a protagonist who is married and very much in love with his wife (the total opposite of any other character in the collection!). In the story, another man finds a woman to love and marry. All of a sudden we go from totally emotionally effed up men escaping relationships through retreat to emotionally stable men who are eager to return home to their wives and domestic life. Plus, it has a conclusive, reflective ending.
Way to throw us off your scent Mr. Wells Tower!
Anyway, this is a pretty good collection, but I thought the stories could have been more cohesive. I mean Proulx's Close Range will the depress the hell out of you, but at least she's consistent.
I could have done without the "oufs" which made me think of comic books. "Achs," would have been better since the speaker was ostensibly German.
I'd read the good reviews and kept seeing the book different places, my anticipation was building..
Wells Tower can write, extremely well. His stories are very, very well written and leave you wanting to know more at the end.
These stories are the kind most readers will either love or hate. The book consists of nine stories, with each story being around 18-30 pages long.
Of the nine stories, I like all but two of them. "Wild America" was long and didn't really go anywhere and the title story "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" didn't blow me away, as it did to some reviewers it seems. The story was supposed to have alot of WOW factor, but I've read too many other graphic stories for that.
My favorites were:
Down Through the Valley
Door In Your Eye
The great story "On the Show" has all the makings of a good novel and has a great cast of characters to go along with it.
Overall, a very good collection and a great start for Wells Tower~
Though there are a few moments of wry humor, I was pretty well mistaken.
That said, the prose in here is brilliant. Wells Tower certainly has a way with words and descriptions and his stories are highly evocative and even moving. However, I don't think I'll ever read this book a second time, because the stories are almost universally depressing and monochromatic. They're almost all about sad, lonely men who do bad things, then end the story still sad and lonely. Not the best bedtime read.
However, I know that Mr Tower is definitely a writer to keep an eye on; he clearly has a brilliant future ahead of him.
Wells Tower's short story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, fell a bit short of its hype, in my opinion. Family and relationships--in all their glorious dysfunction--are the focus of this story collection, which was recognized by the New York Times and Amazon as one of 2009's best books. Yet while I found each of Tower's stories intriguing and readable, I kept waiting for something more, something to unleash and amaze me.
The characters in Tower's stories are all struggling with something, whether it's being banished to a rundown house after infidelity is discovered, a father suffering from dementia, having to drive your ex-wife's lover home from an ashram or even just teenage angst. Nearly all of the issues are relatable and the characters are appealing. But something is missing in every story. It's like he revved up the motor of every story and instead of a big finish, each one ended with a whimper. So instead of fully enjoying each story, I wondered what could have been. Bummer.