Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
You Are Not a Stranger Here: Stories Paperback – August 12, 2003
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
From The New Yorker
The characters in this début collection, many of them gay, many of them depressed, are plagued by the sense that they once had the temerity "to spear mediocrity in the eye." Now, dismayed by the niceties of everyday life, they compulsively scrutinize the people around them, as if this could teach them how to live. These muted stories are driven by the moments of crystallization that result: a boy suddenly knows that his brother is going to die; a lonely teen-ager finds relief as the target of a classmate's violence; a self-absorbed, manic-depressive father discovers that he is unable to say goodbye to his son. All this can be a little gloomy, but Haslett is an eloquent, precise miniaturist, and his characters' struggles with their own assumptions collectively provide a fascinating snapshot of life during the era of Prozac, when new ways of thinking about emotion have forced us to adjust our notion of identity and even, perhaps, of grace.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
“Spectacular. . . . You should buy this book, you should read it, and you should admire it. . . . [It] is the herald of a phenomenal career.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Extraordinary. . . . Frighteningly tender. . . . Displays an order as natural as a tree branch in winter—lithe and achingly austere.” —The Boston Globe
“Haslett possesses a rich assortment of literary gifts: an instinctive empathy for his characters and an ability to map their inner lives in startling detail; a knack for graceful, evocative prose; and a determination to trace the hidden arithmetic of relationships.” —The New York Times
“Fascinating. . . . Haslett is an eloquent, precise miniaturist.” —The New Yorker
“Elegant. . . . Invigorating. . . . [Haslett has an] assured, almost democratic empathy for his admirably varied characters. . . . These are graceful, mature, witty stories.” —San Francisco Chronicle
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The stories are a stunning array of damaged people, unlike any I have read before. An orphaned teenage boy engages the school bully in an erotic pas-de-deux of anger and self-loathing. An elderly woman from a prominent family, long institutionalized, befriends an unhappy high school student, bringing warmth to both their tattered lives. An unmarried brother and sister share their family's oppressive house, and their intertwined romantic failures, eating dinner while their hopes erode.
In each tale, Haslett's virtuoso writing brings vivid life to these unhappy people, and the odd measures that they take to get by from day to day.
Reading this on the train, I was utterly unaware that we had reached our destination until the conductor gently drew my attention. Thank heavens we live at the end of the line, or I would have completely missed my station! These stories are utterly absorbing, capitivating jewels with facets of dread and loneliness and even a bit of hope.
Adam Haslett is a contemporary American master. I do not say such things lightly.
This is a beautifully written collection of short stories that explore mental illness, death, depression, homosexuality, and how we experience our own pain, as well as the pain of others. The descriptions are sparse yet powerfully compelling, and the stories that work will stay with you, pulling you in and forcing you to feel the turmoil the characters are experiencing. Though there are some weak stories here and there, the powerful stories are more than worth the purchase price of the collection as a whole. One of my favorites… though it is a bit of an exercise in misery, with all of the stories being tragic, tragic, tragic..
As always, here are a few of the summaries so you can get a better idea about the collection as a whole:
“Notes to My Biographer” — is about this eccentric, mentally ill older man who visits his younger son and has all these great new ideas/inventions. He’s paranoid, thinks everyone is out to steal his ideas, and trying to reconnect with his family via a long road trip.
“War’s End” — the story from which the collection gets its title, a man who is very depressed, and now that he is thinking more clearly, feels like death is the only option… right before he jumps off a cliff, he meets an old woman, who invites him back to her house to meet her grandson
“The Good Doctor” = a recently graduated psychiatrist finds himself in a rural, slightly backwater America. Though he took the post because of a loan forgiveness, he has since found out that funding has been cut and he meets one of his most compelling patients who shows him how painful life can be.
“The Beginnings of Grief” — a young teenage boy has just lost his mother to suicide and his father to a car accident within the same year. Now he struggles with both that and having a crush on a boy who is struggling with his homosexuallity.
“Devotion” — a slower paced tragedy about sibling devotion, the sacrifices each sibling has made for the other, and also, the ways in which they’ve both inadvertently ruined one another’s lives…
“Divination” — this is one of the ones that fell a little flatter for me; it deals with a younger brother who’s initially at a boarding school and believes that he’s having premonitions about when people might die…
“My Father’s Business” — most of the story takes place via a series of transcribed interviews between a bipolar man who’s struggling (during his more manic phases) to learn to deal with his father by conducting a series of interviews questioning how people got interested in the idea of philosophy.
Comparison to Other Authors:
Compared to other Pulitzer winning collections (like Lahiri’s The Interpreter of Maladies), it does feel a little less finely tuned — there are definitely stories here that really work, and ones that don’t work as well. So, as a collection, I can understand why it was a finalist as opposed to the final winner… but as I said in the review, the ones that work are heartbreakingly amazing.
They are also really, really well written (which explains the visceral reaction). The dialogue, especially, is great (“I used to cast fire from the tips of my fingers some weeks and burn everything in my path and it was all progress and it was all incredibly, incredibly beautiful.”).
The stories are character-driven and made more interesting by their characters’ complex, conflicted relationships. Haslett pulls you in multiple directions emotionally—you understand a kid’s desire to feel something (anything) after his parents have died, but you hate the outlets he chooses and the relationship dynamics he creates. Haslett elicits deep empathy for characters that are flawed and hurt and ill.
The first two stories are the strongest in the collection. I raced through them, and they left me a little breathless and exhausted. None of the rest of the stories quite live up to those first two, but they are all pretty darn good.
In case you haven’t gleaned this yet, allow me to be explicit: this is not light reading.
-- “Notes to My Biographer”: A 73-year-old father is in the throes of a manic episode. The father decides to make a cross-country trip to visit family members he hasn’t seen in years, but his visits are not well received. 4.5/5
-- “The Good Doctor”: A young, new doctor is working for a small-town clinic. A patient, who has been getting her prescriptions auto-refilled for too long, has missed several appointments at the clinic. The doctor decides to make a house call, and the patient opens up to him about her son’s meth addiction and tragic death. 4.5/5
-- “The Beginnings of Grief”: A high-school kid has recently become an orphan—his mother committed suicide and, soon thereafter, his father died in a car accident. Now, he’s living with his neighbors (an old lady and her even older mother), coming and going as he pleases. He finds solace in an unhealthy relationship with a kid in his shop class. 3.5/5
-- “Devotion”: A British brother and sister live together in their parents’ house. An old friend, whom they haven’t seen for many years, is coming for dinner. The visit dredges up long-buried secrets. 4/5
-- “War’s End”: The title of the book comes from a line in this story. A guy suffering from depression goes with his wife on a research trip. He find the perfect place to commit suicide, but his plan is thwarted by a weird grandmother who invites him to tea at her house that smells like rotting flesh. 3/5
-- “Reunion”: A man dying of AIDS leaves his job (telling his boss he’s going on vacation), wallows, and writes letters to his father. 2.5/5
-- “Divination”: An eleven-year-old at boarding school is playing soccer with a friend when he has an odd realization: his Latin teacher has just died. Another teacher finds the dead teacher the next morning. Later, the kid has a nightmare and realizes that someone else will die. He tells his parents in an effort to stop it, but he does not get the reaction from them he wants. 3.5/5
-- “My Father’s Business”: Another story of mania. We see a man’s mania through his patient file, which he has requested and reviews on the train. He has checked himself out of a treatment facility and is headed home. 3.5/5
-- “The Volunteer”: As part of a volunteer program, a high-school student makes regular visits to a woman in a voluntary treatment facility. She suffers from schizophrenia but has been on effective drugs for decades. She decides that she shouldn’t be taking the drugs anymore and begins to flush them. Once off the drugs, she begins to feel and experience things more distinctly again . . . and she is revisited by her old companion, Hester. 4/5