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Nebraska: Stories Paperback – January 11, 1994
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"Wickedness": winters in Nebraska can be brutal, but January of 1888 will go down in history. The weather was pure wickedness. The story is a collage of small stories. It opens on a train, where a young teacher, on her way to Nebraska, shares the ride with a poor carpenter who lost his limbs and ears to frostbite. It continues with a variety of sad and happy endings. My favorite was the one about the pony in charge of delivering a message to parents who did not know where their child was.
"True Romance": another great story, very allegorical, about a mysterious evil force that kills cows in a particularly gruesome way. Don't want to spoil the ending, but I certainly did not see it coming.
"Red-Letter Days": an old man, avid golfer, recovering alcoholic, retired lawyer, keeps a diary. If you thought that diaries were only for teenage girls, think again. So sweet, so moving the feelings that he can pour on those pages.
Ron Hansen is from Nebraska, and six of the eleven pieces in this collection are set in Nebraska. The last piece bears the same plain title - "Nebraska" - and it is a short profile of a Nebraska town near the Niobrara River. The first story in the collection is a collage of misfortunes visited on the inhabitants of Nebraska by the blizzard of 1888. Those two bookend pieces and three other stories ("Playland", "Can I Just Sit Here for a While?", and "Red-Letter Days") are above average and worth reading. As for the other six stories, I frankly would rather have spent the time reading them on something else (one of them was execrable).
So, as much as I admire Ron Hansen's overall work, NEBRASKA merits only three stars in my book.
I had to work hard to finish this book