As we open submissions for the 2015 Writers’ League of Texas Book Awards, we’re still celebrating our 2014 honorees. This year, in addition to our toast at the Texas Book Festival, we’re honoring this year’s winners with a special review written by a Writers’ League member.
By Elizabeth McCracken
Published in 2014 by Dial Press.
Reviewed by Tony Burnett.
Though most recent story collections are linked by character or theme, National Book Award nominee Elizabeth McCracken needs no gimmicks. She claims characters from everyday life to infuse with a magical existence, mesmerizing the reader. You will find friends, neighbors and coworkers between these pages. These nine sublimely crafted tales stand as singular installations of the storyteller’s highest art. They are tragically beautiful and bewitchingly captivating.
In the opening story, “Something Amazing,” a woman who has dropped into a depression so deep that she no longer includes herself as part of society is deemed a witch. When two young boys lacking adult supervision move into the neighborhood, their interaction with the woman leaves the reader questioning that supposition. In another story, “Some Terpsichore,” a young woman with a voice like a saw suffers an abusive relationship to gain moderate fame. In the title story, the family takes a renegade daughter to France hoping for her to find peace. Does she, and at what cost? Every story in this collection contains layer upon layer of emotional quest and question.
McCracken’s characters are complex people with base desires that are often granted in unexpected ways, leaving them questioning the paths they chose. Her impressive understanding of human nature plays into the multidimensional conflicts in her characters. She blurs the line between life and death using ethereal images against a backdrop of stone-carved reality. Her humor contains poignancy and, like a brilliant night sky, her darkest scenarios are dusted with brilliant pinpoints of hopefulness.
The language is exquisite. Though the stories are intricate they will bewitch even the casual reader. Come prepared to be captured by these beautifully crafted stories. You may lose some sleep.
Tony Burnett has been a member of the Writers’ League of Texas since 2010 and currently serves on the Board of Directors. His recent story collection, Southern Gentlemen, has been receiving positive reviews. He resides with his trophy bride, Robin, deep in the heart of Texas.
Did you publish a book in 2015? Consider entering our Book Awards contest.