11 July 2014

Review: Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken

Thunderstruck and Other Stories by Elizabeth McCrackenSo often short stories leave me wanting me more, but Elizabeth McCracken is one of the few authors (Sam Shepard is another) whose careful and pregnant prose fills a small space to perfection. The nine pieces in Thunderstruck are each complete and utterly satisfying.

Although every story in Thunderstruck stands on its own, overall the collection explores death or loss or loneliness. Yet the stories are not depressing in a conventional sense; McCraken shows her characters in their most unguarded moments, and in those moments of vulnerability they remind us of our ourselves.

A few of the stories ("Juliet," about a library patron, and "Property," about a widower) involve unrelated characters, but most of the pieces focus on parents (or caregivers) and children. For example, in "Something Amazing," a woman copes the loss of her young daughter, in "Thunderstruck" a teenage girl changes her family forever, and in "The House of Two Three-Legged Dogs," a couple learns their grown son's true worth.

Despite the darkness, the burden isn't more than we can bear. McCracken occasionally lets her sense of humor shine, and sometimes the broken people find kindred spirits, and through those connections they have moments of, if not peace, at least understanding.

Thunderstruck is a powerful, emotional collection that should be read slowly and savored. Forget what you think you know about short stories; Elizabeth McCracken will leave you, well, thunderstruck.

For more on Elizabeth McCracken and Thunderstruck, see Largehearted Boy's Book Notes for this collection.

Published by Random House / The Dial Press, 2014
ISBN-13: 9780385335775
Source: Review, audio (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


rhapsodyinbooks 7/11/14, 7:13 AM  

I don't know why I have such a negative view of short stories. I wonder what causes it! (I'm thinking - left-over repulsion from being forced to read them in school?)

JoAnn 7/11/14, 7:19 AM  

Like Jill, I hated short stories in school, but gave them another try after I began blogging. Now I'm a fan.This sounds like an excellent collection!

bermudaonion 7/11/14, 7:51 AM  

McCracken's name is so familiar to me but I don't think I've read any of her work. This collection sounds excellent!

Beth Hoffman 7/11/14, 10:11 AM  

Excellent review. I've always enjoyed (well done) short story collections, and this one is definitely going on my list.

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 7/11/14, 1:17 PM  

I will have to add this to my list. Complete and satisfying is what I like to hear about a short story collection. I enjoy short stories but so many of them are vague and leave me annoyed with no ending.

(Diane) bookchickdi 7/11/14, 2:08 PM  

I like short stories and loved McCracken's The Giant's House, so this is a must-read for me.

Vicki 7/11/14, 2:21 PM  

I love short stories and with such a great review, I'll be adding this to my list.

Unknown 7/11/14, 6:02 PM  

I'm not familiar with this author at all, but I'm interested. I'm reading Grand Central now, and the short stories are all so very good it has me wondering why I don't read more.

Daryl 7/14/14, 9:42 AM  

i read about this one in the NY Times Book Review and it sounded quite good but i still am not a lover of short stories

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