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I Knew You'd Be Lovely Paperback – July 5, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A sense of vulnerable restlessness is betrayed by the otherwise pragmatic characters of Black's strong debut collection. Many of these well-meaning, serious protagonists are middle-aged and seized by a paralyzing personal crisis. British botanist Bradley of "That of Which We Cannot Speak" is reeling from the split with his wife back in Islington when he meets a comely laryngitis-stricken doctor in New York; the father of a troubled teenage son in "The Only Way Out Is Through" attempts a perilous camping trip with him to "reconnect"; and a single late-30s schoolteacher, frustrated by her career choice, tracks down her favorite high school teacher for advice in "Good in a Crisis." Big, perhaps unwelcome, surprises lurk for all. For the lawyer protagonist of "The Thing Itself," it is the ecstatic realization that he no longer wants to practice law. For the struggling young New Yorker of "Mollusk Makes a Comeback," it is the example of the resilient mollusk in the Museum of Natural History, "barnacled and determined," rather than the dodo bird, "complacent unto extinction." And, finally, for the young woman of the title story, it will be hitting on the perfect present for her longtime love interest whose attentions have started to wander. A charming tentativeness rattles the polished foundation of these straightforward tales. (June)

Review

“[A] sly and emotionally complex debut collection…[Black’s] unflinching candor allows her to mine extraordinary revelations.” –Boston Globe

“Alethea Black's characters are witty […] without turning caustic, and remain mostly cheerful about their uncertain futures—just the kind of people with whom we want to connect.” — Corrie Pikul, Oprah.com

“This debut reads like a dream, with nary a false note…a well-balanced collection filled with low-key charm and notable talent.” – Kirkus Reviews
 
“A sense of vulnerable restlessness is betrayed by the otherwise pragmatic characters of Black’s strong debut collection.” – Publishers Weekly

“I Knew You’d Be Lovely is an impressive offering, from a strong new voice, of stories about life’s desperation.” – Joseph Arellano, New York Journal of Books

“Alethea Black is downright brilliant at capturing the restless striving for a self that we all are feeling in this parlous and unsettling age. I Knew You’d Be Lovely is a splendidly resonant debut by an important young writer.” – Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain
 
“ With humor, honesty and wary hope, Alethea Black’s stories capture the pain and power of loving fully—and celebrate life’s small astonishments amid our shared human search for the divine.  I KNEW YOU’D BE LOVELY is thoughtful, entertaining and, ultimately, powerful.” – Daphne Kalotay, author of Russian Winter
 
"When I came to the end I wanted to read the next page - or write it, but then I realized that there was no more to be said; as in the Navajo prayer, 'In beauty it is finished.'"--N. Scott Momaday, Pulitzer Prize winning author of House Made of Dawn
 
“Alethea Black writes with a deceptively light touch, yet her work packs a serious punch...There’s a spiritual hunger in her stories reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor, combined with a voice that is all her own.” – Sharon Pomerantz, author of Rich Boy
 
“Reading Alethea Black’s seemingly effortless prose is like slipping into water – the eerily clear kind, that shows you more than you may want to see.” – Glen Hirshberg, winner of the 2008 Shirley Jackson Award 
 
“Alethea Black can drop you into a dream with a single sentence, then convince you it’s real. Her characters’ best hopes and worst fears usually come to pass, often in fabulous ways, but their adventures feel inevitable and true—not only because Ms. Black richly imagines her people, but because she loves them. I Knew You’d Be Lovely is a lovely debut, with masterful prose and inspired invention on every page.”
—Ralph Lombreglia, author of Men Under Water
 
"There's a touch of Lorrie Moore in Alethea Black's stories, but the voice is all her own.  Black writes about love, yes, but she also writes about solitude--its travails and its pleasures--with a winning combination of insight and charm.  I Knew You'd Be Lovely is a terrific debut." – Joshua Henkin, author of Matrimony

“Black’s is a rich, accomplished and startlingly good literary presence…the 13 stories collected here are well-crafted and engaging. Black’s observations on life, love and the human condition are keen and welcome.” –Monica Stark, januarymagazine.blogspot.com 

“The title of Black’s collection reflects the optimism buoying these 13 stories…[Black’s] nimble wit carries her through.” – Vikas Turakhia, Cleveland Plain Dealer



 

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; First Edition first Printing edition (July 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307886034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307886033
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #375,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gayla M. Collins VINE VOICE on May 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In high school and college English majors are often made to read the short story. I am grateful for this fact. "Parker's Back" by O'Conner, Faulkner's "Barn Burnings" and Miss Emily's Rose" are examples of the vignette medium that powerfully moved me. But, as a whole, for the past 50 years, I have mainly read novels, selfishly demanding more; more experience.; more in-depth character study; more profound connection. Alethea Black, the author of "I Knew You Would Be Lovely" brought me back to the pleasure of condensed brilliance. Thirteen vignettes of life are proffered in this short story collection; multiple insights into relationships with oneself, with friends, with family and with one's truths left me deeply stirred.

Of course I had my favorites...."Mollusks Make A Comeback." Katie, a woman afraid to try for more spoke solemnly through humor and jarred an "aha moment" so profound in me I am still shaking. What more can you demand of a story? Other favorites...."Someday is Today," "The Summer Before" and "Good In A Crisis" All thirteen invoked emotions and understanding I didn't know myself capable of. What more can be asked of a well crafted tale?

Alethea Black talent lies in her balance, intuitiveness, tenderness, sarcastic wit, shock value, humor and compassion. How could I ask anything more from a genius wordsmith?

Read at your own risk knowing par writing will most probably not be enough for you again. When you read extraordinary it is hard to lower that bar back down.

Thanks, Ms. Black, for insights and inspirations into your stories conceptions and birth.

In homage to "We've Got a Great Future Behind" us I simply sing, "it's close enough to perfect for me."
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
While outside the pantheon of the types of stories I have been reading lately, each story in "I Knew You'd be Lovely" took me back to the days of college literature courses where a disproportionate number of the short stories I read affected me deeply.

Each story in this collection is a tiny world all its own. They are amazingly, blissfully complete and, while they say to leave them wanting more at the end of short stories, they are also very satisfying. There is no one story so like another that it seems like a retread.

Here's the list of the stories published in this collection:

That of Which We Cannot Speak
The Only Way Out is Through
Good in a Crisis
The Thing Itself
The Laziest Form of Revelation
The Summer Before
Mollusk Makes a Comeback
I Knew You'd be Lovely
Proof of Love
We've Got a Great Future Behind Us
Double-Blind
The Far Side of the Moon
Someday is Today

The stories are memorable, heartbreaking, stimulating, exciting, humorous, honest, and thought provoking - more frequently all of these within a single story.

Frankly, I'm hard-pressed to pick a favorite (a great problem to have), but "The Summer Before" gave me my strongest reaction: when the youngest sister was left on the dock, it made me relive the feeling of abandonment you can only get from older siblings. Alethea Black was able to do all that for me from the perspective of one of the older sisters and without sentimentality.

I think that shows true talent, and there are more examples of her powerful abilities on practically every page of this book. This is real literature.

I received this book at no cost as a member of the Vine Program.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The thirteen stories in this slim but satisfying debut collection deal, as so much contemporary fiction does, with characters bowing under the weight of ordinary tragedies and confusions: a broken marriage, a troubled teenager, a midlife crisis, a widowed sister. Some offer the small epiphanies of minimalist fiction, while others are slices of life. Alethea Black avoids the dull-as-dishwater quality of less than successful stories of this type by presenting characters who are quirkily funny without losing the human touch (one plans to rewrite the Bible in the style of Dr. Seuss-- a hilarious sample is provided), and with her own dry voice, which finds the humor in unbearable grief, divorced sniping, and sincere religious faith. In a few cases the epiphanies feel forced or excessively on-the-nose, but generally they capture the transitory nature of life without feeling pat or saccharine. The prose is occasionally a little awkward, but to a remarkable extent Black has found a distinctive style and made it her own. Story notes by the author reflect her gift for recognizing powerful moments and translating them into fiction.
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By Pamela Malone on November 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book began with some real knockout stories. Ann Lamott compared Black to Laurie Colwin and that was the attraction for me. The book also ended with a very powerful story that felt like a memoir. Unfortunately in the middle were several slight stories with too cute endings. I don't blame Black for this. I suspect an agent rushed her into publishing a book on the basis of one or two stories. Also I think it totally wrecks the magic of fiction to lift the curtain and have the Wizard show the smoke and mirrors that create Oz. Still Alathea Black is a short story writer to watch. Good short story writers anywhere near Laurie Colwin are rare as hound's teeth, and much appreciated when they debut. Several, though not all of the stories were that good.
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