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Volt: Stories Paperback – March 1, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Heathcock's impressive debut collection pursues modern American prairie characters through some serious Old Testament muck. If it's not flood or fire ravishing the village of Krafton, then it's fratricide, pedocide, or just plain ol' stranger killing. In the National Magazine Award–winning "Peacekeeper," middle-aged grocery store manager Helen Farraley becomes the town's first sheriff and cuts her teeth on a missing-child case. When snow tracks lead her to discover the girl's grim fate, Helen skirts the law so that "the unrighteous cause of her death kept a gracious unknown." In "Smoke," the sins of the father visit 15-year-old Vernon when his war vet father drags him out of bed to cremate the man he's killed. In the suspenseful "The Daughter," we watch the sins drip down the maternal line, as well. Misery is in plentiful supply throughout these dark, thickly atmospheric tales of spiritual desolation and savagery. Fans of William Gay and Daniel Woodrell will savor these stories where sin and suffering shroud the hope of redemption. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

In these eight stories, four previously published in literary journals, the settings are small towns in the mountains and valleys of the northern plains states. No peaceful rural areas exist in Heathcock�s imagination. There�s a violent death, whether accidental or planned, in every story. The last six stories constitute a terrific cycle, set in the same town, with the repeating characters of sheriff, mayor, and minister and plots that provide climaxes and resolutions that suit the cycle. It is carefully structured and introduces the town and recurrent characters in the first story, Peacemaker, and then includes them in the ensuing events that trouble the community and disturb the equilibrium of the townspeople. But what really distinguishes the collection is the lyricism of the prose. Heathcock displays a real talent for describing a character in a telling phrase and shows a deep appreciation of the petty and serious violence of daily life. Recommend Volt to fans of Cormac McCarthy, Larry Brown, and Tom Franklin. --Ellen Loughran
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; 1st edition (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975771
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975777
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #706,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Abrams on March 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
The title of Alan Heathcock's debut collection of short stories practically begs for allusions to electricity, but the fact of the matter is, Volt really does energize and jolt the reader from the very first paragraph to the final lines which linger, sparking and buzzing, long after the last page is turned.

Heathcock worked ten years on these stories and the hard, lonely hours of the solitary writer at his keyboard have paid off as readers now hold one of the year's best short story collections in their hands. Volt makes us think, makes us feel, and makes us believe in the power of short fiction once again.

In a tradition stretching from Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio to Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, Heathcock links the stories in Volt through location and character--the residents of the fictional Krafton. They are set in an indefinable place and time. It could be Indiana in the 1950s or it could be Montana in the 2010s, but the characters are, at heart, those folks who live next door to us; or, more precisely, those who live in the mirror. Heathcock has gone directly to the heart of what makes us tick and breathe in a world thrown into disarray, no matter if it's the Cold War or the Iraq War in the background.

With a certain Midwestern stoicism, most of Heathcock's characters are men and women of few words. In the collection's opening story, "The Staying Freight," Winslow Nettles embarks on a weeks-long cross-country odyssey after he accidentally kills his boy and causes a train derailment. Before he departs, however, he leaves a note on the kitchen table for his wife: Took a walk. Be back soon.

In fact, Winslow will not be back anytime soon.
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This book has been so well reviewed that I'm a little intimidated to add my two cents. I lack eloquence in this area. I will say that reading the opening story "Staying Freight," made me want to just sit and be grateful for family in the same the way that watching a good friend or family member fight and struggle against some terrible circumstance that leaves us all helpless makes me need to sit back and be grateful. These stories reflect back to the reader what it means to be human e...more This book has been so well reviewed that I'm a little intimidated to add my two cents. I lack eloquence in this area. I will say that reading the opening story "Staying Freight," made me want to just sit and be grateful for family in the same the way that watching a good friend or family member fight and struggle against some terrible circumstance that leaves us all helpless makes me need to sit back and be grateful. These stories reflect back to the reader what it means to be human especially when we have allowed ourselves to get caught up in all the things in this world that would encourage us to forget that. In addition, the writing beautiful throughout and language makes me ridiculously green with envy. I haven't finished the collection -- in a strange way I am hoarding it, reading it a story at a time only when I have a enough time to properly fall into the book, I am simultaneously dying to find enough time to finish it and lamenting the fact that at some point it will be over.
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Volt is beautifully written and powerful. It is an honest and unflinching look at grief written with great compassion. It deals a lot with existential issues, it asks big questions and explores fragile and damaged humanity in a unique and brave way. You will not be disappointed by Alan Heathcock's work.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Gritty collection of stories about lost souls and the tragedies they suffer in a small town. Volt is not for the feint of heart. Heathcock is an excellent wordsmith and the book is filled with vivid detail--both good and bad, because some of the imagery will make you uncomfortable.
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I love realistic, personable fiction, this is short stories that are each written with grace, and truth, and conscience. Alan Heathcock should be on the shelves of every library and should be fighting off the movie people. Most of the stories are much better than movies could ever be.
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Format: Paperback
VOLT

Containing eight electric and dynamic short stories, this book reminded me very much of OLIVE KITTERIDGE in its format and formula. Characters start out in one short story, show up in others, moving inside the web of author Alan Heathcock's intriguing works.

The reader is transported to Krafton, USA, located between somewhere and nowhere. People are proud and hard working, and grief and tragedy are no strangers to anyone living in Krafton. We are introduced to characters who have love and lost, loose loved ones, triumph over nature's fury, deal with murder and just try to make it through one more day.

The one character I admired the most was Helen Farraley. A former grocery store manager, she now is Krafton's sheriff. Farraley shows up in many of the eight stories, trying to right wrong, sometimes taking justice and the law into her own hands, vailantly trying to keep the peace in Krafton, which is no easy feat. She is strong, resillent, and honest, yet the author also shows her very human side as she sheds tears, shows fear, or gets confused. In one story she takes it upon herself to change the circumstances of a crime in order to spare loved one's feelings. Helen is a fleshed-out and true-to-life character, same as everyone else you will meet in Krafton.

THE STAYING FREIGHT, the first story in the book, was perhaps my favorite. Winslow Nettles is a farmer who faces the ultimate loss and tragedy, which he simply cannot handle. He needs to escape his misery and that of his wife's and simply starts to walk. Where does he end up? Does he find peace? What happened that made him try to run away from himself?
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