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Fortune Smiles: Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 18, 2015
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“Masterful . . . Each [story] is a miniature demonstration of why his remarkable novel The Orphan Master’s Son won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.”—The Washington Post
“[Adam Johnson] is always perceptive and brave; his lines always sing and strut and sizzle and hush and wash and blaze over the reader.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Superb . . . explosive.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Remarkable . . . the best short story collection since Tenth of December . . . Johnson is one of America’s greatest living writers.”—The Huffington Post
“Haunting, harrowing . . . Johnson’s writing is as rich in compassion as it is in invention, and that rare combination makes Fortune Smiles worth treasuring.”—USA Today
“Fortune Smiles [blends] exotic scenarios, morally compromised characters, high-wire action, rigorously limber prose, dense thickets of emotion, and, most critically, our current techno-moment.”—The Boston Globe
“Johnson’s boundary-pushing stories make for exhilarating reading.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Entrancing.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“One of the most original and compelling voices in contemporary American fiction.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Johnson packs more voice in his stories than most authors do in a novel.”—Esquire
“Stunning . . . Johnson is a writer of uncanny insight and compassion and Fortune Smiles is a wise, poignant and important book. It should not be missed.”—Toronto Star
“The best stories stretch well beyond their first and last words. They’re more than the opening scene; they invite the reader to imagine what came before and what will come after. They’re alive and they’re limitless. That’s exactly what the best stories in Fortune Smiles are like.”—NPR
“[A] bold and deeply wise collection.”—BuzzFeed
“Even as Johnson’s subject matter bends genre is a way that is assertively contemporary, much of his prose is classically beautiful. . . . The speculative fiction of Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell, which also trade in inherited traumas and personal resilience, come to mind, as do George Saunders’ darkly satiric visions of near-future America.”—The New Republic
“Transfixing . . . The collection amply confirms Johnson’s daring and talent.”—The Oregonian
“Excellent.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Johnson has a rare combination of inventiveness, intellectual pyrotechnics and emotional sophistication. . . . These stories are treasures.”—BBC
“Adam Johnson returns with this riveting collection of short stories, each reflecting the darkly imagined, slightly surreal point of view that animated his Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Orphan Master’s Son. . . . He’s a compelling writer, in any form.”—San Jose Mercury-News
“Startlingly, blazingly original.”—BookPage
“[Adam Johnson] serves up six sinewy stories that shock and surprise in his edgy, inviting Fortune Smiles. . . . [They’re] compulsively readable tales about characters whose lives are largely ignored, undervalued, or simply uncharted and whose voices we seldom hear.”—Elle
“The stories in Fortune Smiles fizz with imagination, miniature worlds exploding onto the page. Adam Johnson’s prose is so pared-down, like the setting for precious stones, he gives us just what’s necessary to let the facets sparkle, without distraction. I loved this book!”—M. L. Stedman, New York Times bestselling author of The Light Between Oceans
“How do you follow a Pulitzer Prize–winning novel? For [Adam] Johnson, the answer is a story collection, and the tales are hefty and memorable. . . . In the title story, two North Korean criminals adjust to post-defection life in South Korea. . . . Often funny, even when they’re wrenchingly sad, the stories provide one of the truest satisfactions of reading: the opportunity to sink into worlds we otherwise would know little or nothing about.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A half-dozen sometimes Carver-esque yarns that find more-or-less ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges and somehow holding up. Tragedy is always close to the surface in Johnson’s work—with tragicomic layerings. . . . Bittersweet, elegant, full of hard-won wisdom: this is no ordinary book, either.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
About the Author
Adam Johnson is the author of The Orphan Master’s Son, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the California Book Award, and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. It was named one of the best books of the year by more than a dozen publications, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and Entertainment Weekly. Johnson’s other awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Stegner Fellowship; he was also a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award. His previous books are Emporium, a short story collection, and the novel Parasites Like Us. Johnson teaches creative writing at Stanford University and lives in San Francisco with his wife and children.
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Top Customer Reviews
That will teach me to choose a book without doing any research first.
In the book, Fortune Smiles is the name of a rigged North Korea-based lottery game.
The six stories feature a woman paralyzed and in the throes of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a man fighting his compulsion to molest little girls, a woman with breast cancer, a UPS driver dealing with personal crises and the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, a former Stasi warden of a notorious prison for political prisoners in what was East Berlin and two men who rather accidentally defected from North Korea to South Korea, where they trade a totalitarian regime for the equally not-subtle indoctrination of glitzy capitalism and proselytizing Christianity.
Fortune hasn't smiled on any of these characters, unless she is enjoying some very cruel pranks.
I avidly read all the stories anyway. Johnson is a highly skilled writer who pulls the reader into unfamiliar territory and unfolds a good bit of social commentary.
I even finished the story about child molesters, although my stomach was churning as I read.
One of my favorites was "Interesting Facts," the one narrated by a woman with breast cancer. It was deftly written--so much so that I stopped part way through and reread to see how Johnson had led me down the path he wished without my seeing what he was doing.
I also enjoyed "Hurricanes Anonymous" because, really, who could not like a young Cajun UPS driver who keeps delivering packages while accompanied by his 2-year-old son Geronimo in spite of the ravages of hurricanes Katrina and Rita? His deliveries to the zombielike refugees living in a former Chuck E. Cheese stayed with me for days.
The writing kept me reading. This is not a book everyone will want to read. In fact, I'm not sure I wanted to read it, but I'm glad I did.
The first story in the collection, 'Nirvana' is about a woman with Guillain-Barre syndrome. She is paralyzed by the disease and spends most of her waking time listening to Kurt Cobain. Her husband is a free source computer genius who has been able to bring to life a past president of the United States who has been assassinated in the past. He is able to talk to the president and the president answers him but only with phrases he's actually used when he was alive. Both husband and wife have experienced great loss and as the husband states, "This feeling of being in proximity to something that's lost to you, it seems like my whole life right now".
'Interesting Facts' is a story close to my heart. A young woman with children is going through treatment for breast cancer and the treatment is brutal. She often wonders what her husband would do should she succumb to the disease. What is particularly interesting, besides the narrative itself, is that the woman's husband has won a Pulitzer prize for a novel about North Korea, and he gets invited to all these functions with beautiful women. She worries if one of them will seduce him. I wonder how much of the author's real life is contained in this story.
There's a story of a UPS driver who 'inherits' a child after Hurricane Katrina, a story about an ex-Stasi prison guide, as well as a few others in this collection. They are all well-written and interesting. It is the above two, however, that spoke most personally to me.