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Twelve Women in a Country Called America Paperback – May 1, 2015
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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These stories are thrilling to read. They are bold and exploratory, truthful, and unflinching. Kelly Cherry is a magnificent storyteller!
—Bobbie Ann Mason, author of In Country and The Girl in the Blue Beret
In these richly imagined stories, from New Orleans to Huntsville to Memphis to Richmond—all around the South and back again—women are working through their thwarted lives: afraid, defiant, longing, loving. Kelly Cherry’s heroines are dramatically different from each other, but they are all coming to terms with the human condition in ways that reveal that condition to the reader. Funny, tender, surprising and exact, this is a stunning collection from a writer at the top of her form.
—Janet Burroway, author of Losing Tim: A Memoir
Kelly Cherry is a writer's writer, a master storyteller who writes about people we recognize in a style so easy we're surprised to find ourselves suddenly in deep, deep water. The past often collides with the present in these complicated families, almost-families, and relationships; many of the stories turn on those moments when we find out who we truly are, or who we will become. Deeply psychological yet compulsively readable, these stories are like real stories told to us by a trusted friend.
—Lee Smith, author of Guests of Earth: A Novel and The Last Girls
Twelve Women in a Country Called America is the latest instance of Kelly Cherry’s straight shooting about the often crooked kind we are. Clearly, ours are lives wobbling out of round. Herein, women and men, southerners every one, cleave to lies that sustain and stories that end happily. Kelly Cherry knows better. Kelly Cherry, going long or short between margins, is a national treasure.
—Lee K. Abbott, author of All Things, All at Once: New & Selected Stories
In Twelve Women in a Country Called America, Kelly Cherry deftly captures the lives of a remarkably diverse group of women from the American south. Each woman we meet in these stories is distinctly drawn and presented with heart, wit, and wisdom. That Kelly Cherry, one of our most talented and prolific contemporary writers, can show us our world and the women who populate it in such moving and memorable ways may not be a surprise, but, page after page, it’s an absolute pleasure and a gift.
— Judith Claire Mitchell, author of A Reunion of Ghosts: A Novel
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
TWELVE WOMEN IN A COUNTRY CALLED AMERICA: STORIES, by Kelly Cherry.
Where to begin? Well, I can't remember when I've LOVED a book of short stories quite this much. As any writer knows all too well, short stories are often a very hard sell in the book biz. But these stories, well, they are - ALL of them - just so damn PERfect! They are like tiny twenty-page novels, stories that seem to give you a look at a particular woman's whole life, with all its tears and laughter, sorrows and joys, triumphs and failures. There is simply not a clinker in the whole bunch.
That said, I still don't know where to begin. But here goes. The twelve women featured here are all from the South - ten states: Alabama (twice), Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia (twice). They are ordinary women but each is unique. They are: Plummy, Ramona, France, Jeanne, Georgiana, Carolina, Sheba ('Sassy'), Jessie, Henrietta, Lorna Jo, Calista, and June. They range in age from ten (Jessie - "The Piano Lesson") to nearly ninety (Sassy - "A Life Long and Short"). But these ages remain relative, as you are often granted glimpses of various times in their lives, from childhood to old age. And it is this variety - in personality, age and circumstances - that makes this collection of stories - of lives - so rich and satisfying.
I loved, for example, Sassy, who started out dirt-poor in the depths of the Depression, sleeping three to a mattress with her five younger siblings in Memphis, her hard-working mother always exhausted. But she "grew up to become Miss Sheba Moore, Bachelor of Arts and first-grade teacher," but she still remembers a Christmas when her only gift was a shiny red apple, and "sleeping in her mother's arms that Christmas night. She has never forgotten that even sadness can be a gift if it is shared."
That detail of the apple brought to mind the ever-present orange in the toe of my own Christmas stocking, because my parents (also children of the Great Depression) remembered when an orange - or an apple - was a luxury. And now, nearing ninety, Sassy still misses her mother, remembering how she was always too tired to play with her children.
"If there is a heaven - which Sassy seriously doubts - the first thing she is going to do is look up her mother and take hold of her hand and ask her to dance. Her mother won't have to say she doesn't have time, she has to sweep and iron, mend and clean, she has to work. She'll let her smile grow wide, her dimple flashing, and the two of them will dance all over the pissy place."
I also loved Texan Lorna Jo ("Serious Love"), who knew "how to throw her head back, square her shoulders, and walk like a woman. A fine art, this performance of gender, and presentation was critical ..." A successful professional woman who found love late in life, she "would remember what it was like to have been loved by a man who took love seriously."
And there was Calista ("The Starveling"), a New Orleans ear ring artisan, ignored and emotionally abused by her vain wannabe-poet lover. Finally breaking free, she decides to try writing herself - about what she knows: "fear, grief, anger, loneliness, and fending off despair with work ... [and] self-reliance, adaptability, clarity of purpose, joking and friendship."
In fact, these are all precisely the things that Kelly Cherry writes about in this marvelous jewel box of a book. Writing about what she knows. And every story here is a sparkling gem polished to perfection, and laced throughout with a sneakily sly, self-effacing sense of humor that will leave you chuckling, or even laughing aloud. I'll say it again: I LOVED these stories!
Who IS this woman anyway? And why have I never heard of her? Especially considering she is a former poet laureate of Virginia and has written more than two dozen books of fiction, poetry, essays and even a couple translations of Greek plays. I mean this is obviously a wonderfully accomplished and skilled writer at the top of her game. And now that she's finally on my radar, I will definitely be reading more of Kelly Cherry's work.
One more time: LOVED these stories; LOVED this book. Handing it off to my wife now. Very highly recommended.
- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER