12 November 2010

Featuring . . . Vanishing and Other Stories by Deborah Willis

This Friday and every Friday for the next several months I'll be featuring a book in the Harper Perennial Imprint. Some were recently published, some will be released later this year, all are worth a closer look.

I used to think I just wasn't a short story kind of gal. But then I started exploring collections that focused on themes that I find hard to resist. Deborah Willis's Vanishing and Other Stories is just such a collection.

Take a look at the publisher's summary:

A French teacher who collects fianc├ęs; a fortune-teller who fails to predict the heartbreak of her own daughter; an aging cowboy seduced by a city girl . . . these are some of the unforgettable people who live in these pages.

In Vanishing and Other Stories, secrets are both kept and unearthed, and lives are shaped by missing lovers, parents, and children. With wisdom and dexterity, moments of dark humor, and a remarkable economy of words, Deborah Willis captures an incredible array of characters that linger in the imagination and prove that nothing is ever truly forgotten.
One of the linking themes to Willis's stories is the idea that some people stay and others leave, and she explores the personalities, reactions, and lives of those who are left behind. I am taken with Willis's ability to create stories told from a diverse group of characters: from children, young adults, and the mature; from city people and country people; from males and females.

Willis can tell you much about a family in just a few sentences:
We were raised on lentils, brown rice, Neil Young, and solstice celebrations. Our mother ran a local grocery co-op and wore skirts made of hemp before hemp was chic. Our dad was a ceramics artist who sold cups and bowls at the local farmers' market, had lost most of his short-term memory, and never got any of the big commissions that the tourist board gave out.

As young children, Claudia and I were encouraged to be wild. We were always outside, and often naked. The neighbors complained because our parents never mowed the lawn, believing that children should have high grass to play in and dandelion seeds to blow. (p. 266)
See what I mean? I'm not the only one to notice Willis's ability to capture her readers:
  • Nely from All About {n} says: "[T]he narrators all seemed true, someone you might know, or even a few of their aspects might be found within you. "
  • Staci from Life in the Thumb says: "I was amazed at how eloquently Willis could tell a story in such a short amount of words and pages."
  • Dawn reviewing at 5 Minutes for Books says: "Willis has a masterful command of words–beautifully constructed phrases and sentences kept popping out at me, wanting to be remembered."
To learn more about Deborah Willis, visit her website.

This book was featured as part of my Spotlight on the Harper Perennial imprint. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. See the alphabetized review index to see what others are saying. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.

Vanishing and Other Stories at Powell's
Vanishing and Other Stories at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, September 2010
ISBN-13: 9780062007520


Sandy Nawrot 11/12/10, 6:48 AM  

I never thought I was a short story person either, but I have been convinced otherwise! I love the sound of these stories. I think I will add this one to my Amazon wish list for the holidays!

Carrie K. 11/12/10, 10:19 AM  

After recently finishing Julie Orringer's short story collection, How to Breathe Underwater, I was craving another bout of short fiction - this one goes on the wish list for a Christmas purchase!

Anonymous,  11/12/10, 11:06 AM  

I've just recently discovered short stories again. I used to love them in High School then kind of fell away. I going to have to look for this one, it sounds very good. I just love the Harper Perennial Imprint, there are so many great titles there.

Julie P. 11/12/10, 11:45 AM  

This looks interesting -- in a good way. I'm not a big fan of short stories, but occasionally I do enjoy them.

Dorte H 11/12/10, 1:42 PM  

Yes, I see exactly what you mean! Delicious.

Lynne Perednia 11/13/10, 10:31 AM  

This collection jumped to the top of my wish list with your superb review. I love short stories and am delighted to see what appear to be such well-crafted ones gain attention.

Eva 11/13/10, 1:04 PM  

I love short stories, and these ones sound right up my alley. :D

Jenners 11/13/10, 7:48 PM  

You're right ... a short story writer needs to convey a lot in a little bit of room. Your example of this is a wonderful example.

Alice 11/14/10, 6:37 PM  

Short stories are never my first choice of reading materials but I've read some really good ones and this one sounds just like it. Love that passage you've quoted.

Veens 11/16/10, 7:30 AM  

I love short stories, and this one is right up my alley. I am glad you pointed out what others are saying as well.

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