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People I Wanted to Be: Stories Paperback – May 11, 2005
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this offbeat, affecting follow-up to her debut collection, The Necessary Grace to Fall, Ochsner assembles a host of oddballs whose touchingly resilient hopes and small leaps of faith fly in the face of almost certain disappointment. Set mostly in Russia and Oregon, the collection is steeped in a perversely funny Slavic fatalism woven through with strands of Pacific Northwestern unflappability. Ochsner's misfits range from a Czech illustrator whose rebellious sketches come to life and won't stay put, to a young woman who does a brisk business in catapulting strangers' "wounded, rusty" hearts over her back fence and into an abandoned dump next door. When the tone shifts abruptly from carefully observed realism to clever fantasticality, the transitions between stories can be jarring, but incongruity—the tension between small, improbable miracles and the damp, chilly world in which they suddenly occur—form the luminous heart of this collection. In "When the Dark Is Light Enough," an old woman, beaten to death by her nephew, lies stiff on a slab in the morgue, "caught smiling in spite of a mouth full of broken teeth.... Her arms had been flung open. They'd looked like wings." Ochsner knows that vindication and inspiration often come from unlikely places, and she can capture this contradiction gorgeously in a gesture. Agent, Julie Barer.(May)
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*Starred Review* Ochsner's first book of stories, The Necessary Fall to Grace (2002), won numerous awards. In her latest collection, she revisits similar territory in stories set around the globe, often in places such as the countries of the former Soviet Union, which are rich with culture and wild beauty yet also bleak and repressive. Her characters, too, move fluidly between paradoxical states of gratitude and despair, clarity and misunderstanding, and accomplishment and failure, and there are no neat divisions between the living and the dead. In "Articles of Faith," a Finnish man and woman try to conceive a child, while the ghosts of their dead or unborn children play, just out of reach, in the frozen yard. In "Halves of a Whole," after a teenager's beloved twin sister dies, she is astonished to find a new sense of freedom. Many characters speak about the shortfalls of words: they're "like leaves," says one character, "one more way to hide ourselves from each other." In these remarkable stories, which draw from folklore and myths, Ochsner's flawed, wholly sympathetic characters miraculously stumble into small moments, shaped with a delicious sense of the absurd, which connect them to a world that's magical, merciful, and infinite. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Every story is a beautiful work of art.
I recommend those who love People I Wanted to Be also purchase The Necessary Grace to Fall.