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The Miniature Wife: and Other Stories Hardcover – January 10, 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Debut writer Gonzales blends imagined histories and biographies with the supernatural and scientific in 18 energetic tales depicting the bizarre as everyday events. Largely set in Texas, the author’s home, these stylized stories disclose a zombie-infested mall, an animal-ridden house, and a shed-dwelling unicorn. Swamp monsters battle robots and a father becomes a werewolf, while artists and anthropologists reevaluate their careers. In the uproarious title story, a scientist accidentally shrinks his wife, leading to an absurdly ferocious rivalry involving a dollhouse, dead flies, and makeshift moats. And in the collection’s defining opener, a writer aboard a hijacked plane that has been circling Dallas for 20 years chronicles his fellow passengers’ acceptance of life in airborne captivity. Loosely anchoring the book is a series of wry, encyclopedic entries recounting the mythic lives of a clown, poet, scientist, and zookeeper, respectively, and another about an innkeeper who shares the author’s name. Although these whimsical additions feel extraneous in an otherwise fascinating collection, Gonzales expresses empathy and demonstrates an impressive knack for violent humor, disturbing satire, and genre-infused literary fiction. --Jonathan Fullmer

Review

"These stories are wrought with forceful clarity, Borgesian inventiveness and enchanting, devious wit—an unforgettable debut from a uniquely gifted writer."
– Wells Tower, author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

"These are beautiful, strange truths—mad, weird, funny and unforgettable. Manuel Gonzales possesses a brand new American literary voice. This is vital work from an exciting new writer."
—Ben Marcus, author of The Flame Alphabet

“This book has everything you could ask for in a collection, and even things you hadn’t thought to ask for, but secretly wanted: unicorns, mobsters, swamp monsters and werewolves. Manuel Gonzales weaves the supernatural into the lives of everyday citizens, from anthropologists to airline passengers, and the result is pure magic mixed with humor and deep humanity.”
–Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief

"You know that feeling you get when you pick up a book and realize you are hearing a voice you have never heard before but will be hearing for a long time? I had that feeling on page 5. Please pick up this book - you will have that feeling. Dark, smart and strange in a way that initially had me grasping for comparison but that ultimately revealed itself to be something new."
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

“Manuel Gonzales’s The Miniature Wife is a marvel—a beautiful, hilarious and moving reinvention of the gothic, a testimony to the sublime powers of the imagination and language. This a book of extraordinary joy, compassion, horror and grace all rolled into one.”
—Dinaw Mengestu, author of How to Read the Air and The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears

“It’s easy to compare Manuel Gonzales to George Saunders, but it would be just as easy to compare him to Borges or Márquez or Aimee Bender…He makes the extraordinary ordinary, and his playfulness is infectious.”
—Benjamin Percy, Esquire

“Excellent…Gonzales has built a peerless fictional universe by populating his stories with zombies, unicorns, werewolves and space warriors, and then giving them the sensibilities of worried middle managers…hilarious and chilling…a superior collection of writing and a signpost of an emerging talent with a strong and distinctive voice.”
—Michael Lindgren, The Washington Post

"Lucid and confident...because his prose is never sloppy and his rhythm is impeccable, Gonzales's sentences unfold with an unusual smoothness...these stories showcase an exciting new voice... [they] ring and resound."
—Aimee Bender, The New York Times Book Review

“Is there a term for something that's sad, funny, and strange all at once? Sunge? Frad? Because that would describe this imaginative debut…even the most absurd emotional conflicts feel familiar somehow, which only makes them more moving.”
—Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly

“Gonzales’ voice is so new and different and dazzling that you won’t be able to put down his book.”
—Steph Opitz, Marie Claire 

“The stories are written so believably, they handle the strange and surreal so carefully, that you want to believe the impossible is possible.”
—Roxane Gay, Tin House

“Remarkable…with an unerring eye for the magnificently weird and funny…hilariously familiar, and also painful and heartbreaking. Gonzales brings great humanity to his oddball scenarios”
—Julia Holmes, Men’s Journal

“Wildly imaginative, at times surreal, and always captivating… Gonzales creates these bizarre scenarios that are so utterly believable you forget how impossible they actually are. There is an intelligent economy to his prose throughout the collection and I was thrilled by the originality of his ideas and how they were rendered.”
—Roxanne Gay, The Rumpus

“Impressive…There are true moments of Kafkaesque absurdity and Borgesian fantasy…It pays to suspend disbelief, dive right in and revel in the mayhem.”
—Malcolm Forbes, San Francisco Chronicle

“Delightful freakishness.”
—Susannah Meadows, The New York Times

“A triumph of the form…exhilarating… Gonzales' command of genre and his defiance of convention ripple throughout.”
—Shawn Badgley, Austin Chronicle 

“Manuel Gonzales is his own weird, imaginative, witty self. Any story by him is going to take the reader on a ride through a new world that is eerily like our own, yet full of the unexpected.”
—Jenny Shank, Dallas Morning News

“A volume of artfully structured tales… a wild adventure through the human condition.”
—G. Clay Whittaker, The Daily Beast

“[The Miniature Wife] will stick with you. The places and characters will ring daily in your mind.”
—Cate McGehee, The Stranger

“Deeply imaginative… . With commendable skill, Gonzales seamlessly blends the real and the fantastic, resulting in a fun and provocative collection that readers will want to devour.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Rife with ingenuity and beholden to few rules…Delightfully eerie tales from the dark side.”
Kirkus Reviews

“With an astringent wit… intelligence and versatility.”
—Emily Donaldson, Toronto Star

“An exciting new addition to the modern fabulist genre.”
—Emily Temple, Flavorwire.com

The Miniature Wife will entertain your intellect.”
—Black Balloon Publishing blog

“With clear, matter-of-fact writing and relatable characters who are forced to make heartbreaking decisions… you get crazy scenarios mixed in fine writing and profound thoughts about the human condition and the state of the world. Manuel Gonzales can make you believe anything.”
—The Hispanic Reader blog
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; First Edition edition (January 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594486042
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594486043
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #960,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. Sparks on January 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading the stories in this amazing collection several hours ago, and they are still haunting me, tickling at the edges of my brain like the unholy tongue of a zombie (yes, two of the stories are about zombies). These stories were unsettling and disturbing at times, humorous and bizarre at others, but in all cases brilliantly written gems that look directly into the heart of what it means to be human. Each story seems innocent at first, but eventually things go horribly wrong, leading to that unsettled feeling I was talking about. The stories are all told in first person in a slightly detached way, as though the strange events the characters find themselves in the middle of are simply run-of-the-mill occurrences. The deadpan delivery and overall lack of emotion from these narrators might lull you into thinking these stories are safe, but they aren't. Here's a breakdown of some of my favorites:

Pilot, Copilot, Writer - One of my favorites, this strange tale is about a hijacked plane that has been flying in circles over the city of Dallas, TX for twenty years. The reasons behind what the hijacker wants and why he's flying in circles go unexplained, but the curious way the passengers handle this problem is part of the charm of this story.

The Miniature Wife - A man accidentally shrinks his wife and then tries to atone for his horrific mistake by building her a dollhouse. What starts as an almost funny premise takes a darker turn when things begin to escalate out of control, and the narrator and his wife wage war on each other. I won't go into details, because this is one story you'll want to read for yourself, but let's just say the family cat is involved...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In his 1989 essay "Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast," Tom Wolfe warned of those who wrote "on the assumption that the true enemies of the novel were plot, character, setting, and theme."

Sure enough, as Wolfe foretold, "New types of novels came in waves, each trying to establish an avant-garde position out beyond realism. There were Absurdist novels, Magical Realist novels, and novels of 'Radical Disjunction' in which plausible events and plausible characters were combined in fantastic or outlandish ways, often resulting in dreadful catrastrophes."

Some of those catastrophes nearly sank several imprints, who now rely on vampires and spanking to save them.

THE MINIATURE WIFE is not one of those catastrophes. It is sharply observed, densely imagined, and a near-perfect evocation of our fractured human condition circa 2013. The magic realism is there, with traces of Borges, Kafka and Gabriel García Marquez woven through the stories. But there are other, and subtler, layers. Ibsen's Doll House lives inside the title story. Another piece, the minimalist "Cash to a Killing," would fit comfortably beside the Hemingway Nick Adams tales. The dirty realism of Raymond Carver and granular precision of early Chekhov suffuse the entire collection.

It is a strange, haunting book - a menagerie of lost souls, a Madame Tussauds of the human spirit, an objective correlative for a mad planet.

Manuel Gonzales has done his homework. He is a balanced, mature writer whose imagination matches the surreality of our times. He arrives in full throat in this debut work.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There is something that is missing from all these stories. I like the premises, I like the ideas that he starts off with, but then they never end in a satisfying way. I wanted to like these stories a lot...they just didn't do it for me.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
On the whole, this is an interesting collection of strange and bizarre stories. Most are written in first-person, and this makes it easy for the reader to get absorbed right into each quirky situation. I would describe these stories as "fantastical". There is always an attitude of bemused humor in the telling of the tales. The "impossible" is treated as being true and accepted in the telling of the tale -- a matter-of-fact attitude expressed by the first-person narrator. "Things fall apart" is the quote by W.B. Yeats printed on the page before the collection of stories begins. This is the thread that ties all these stories together.

I won't review each story, as this has been done well by others on Amazon. But, my favorite story is the title story: "The Miniature Wife". A man accidentally shrinks his wife to doll-size, and can't reverse the process. So, he tries to accommodate her by building her a doll house to live in. Things do not go well. Their relationship changes drastically. And, so it goes. Very creepy, and also funny.

"Cash to a Killing" is my next favorite, then "Pilot, Copilot, Writer". On my personal grading scale, all 18 of these stories merit a grade of between A+ and C, which (in my experience of reading short story collections) is excellent. Not all stories are winners, but none of them is bad. Quirky variations on tales of wolfmen, zombies, unicorns, murderers, hijackers, robots, other-worlds, end of the world, human oddities. Sprinkled in amongst the stories are several "Meritorious Life" encyclopedia-like entries. They are not short stories, but seem more like writing exercises . These are the weakest entries in this collection, with one exception: "William Corbin: A Meritorious Life".
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