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Thunderstruck & Other Stories Hardcover – 5 Jun 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (5 Jun 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224099523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224099523
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.1 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 131,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"These nine stories are filled with longing, guilt and violence." (New York Times)

"Jewelled and barbed with the beauty and brutality of real life, these are sentences of perfect weight and understanding. There are no fillers here, no stories that disappoint: the nine coalesce into something rare and understatedly breathtaking. Like the missing who haunt these stories, Thunderstruck is unforgettable." (Stuart Evers Observer)

"Wonderful, moving tales." (Erica Wagner Financial Times)

"An electric blend of hilarity and despair." (Bonnie Jo Campbell O, The Oprah Magazine)

"[A] powerful collection." (John Self Independent on Sunday)

Book Description

A brilliant new collection of short fiction from the National Book Award finalist and author of The Giant’s House.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Aug 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
My four stars are for the best stories in what struck me as a "mixed bag" much as I wanted to admire the quality of the writing and risk-taking originality.

McCracken reminds me of Alice Munro: the unusual take on situations, the continual drift to unpredictable outcomes, the concern with observation rather than plot, the sharp, self-possessed prose stripped of emotion even in the most moving situations, the flashes of humour to alleviate the pain or even horror. However, I find her writing a little more contrived and less empathetic than Munro's.

The stories seem very variable in their effectiveness. I was hooked by the opening "Something Amazing" in which teenage Gerry comes home to find that his grief-deranged mother, unable to get over the death of her small daughter, has kidnapped a neighbour's child. "He wonders how to sneak him back home. He wonders how to keep him forever".

The plight of a couple trying to deal with an accident which has befallen their wayward adolescent daughter in the title story "Thunderstruck" comes closer to moving than most of the rest. Sustained by false optimism, the father "looked at his wife, whom he loved, and whom he looked forward to convincing, and felt as though he were diving headfirst into happiness. It was a circus act, a perilous one. Happiness was a narrow tank. You had to make sure you cleared the lip".

"Peter Elroy; A Documentary by Ian Casey" is very original, showing how a longstanding friendship has been destroyed by film-maker Ian's early masterpiece in which he interviewed Peter, but only recorded his responses, thereby both deceiving him and showing him in a dreadful light.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Superbly written and exquisitely odd from a storyline point of view. A window on a world normal mortals never experience.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. P. Wilson on 16 July 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wow this book is fabulous probably the best collection of shrt stories I have ever read. The theme of loss links the stories . Highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 45 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Cautionary Tales 17 May 2014
By BJ Fraser - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is the kind of book where I have to first issue a disclaimer. If you're looking for happy, pleasant tales then do not read this book. At the same time if you want a maudlin tearjerker, you should go buy a Nicholas Sparks book instead. If, however, you want a grown-up book about real humans facing the seedier side of life then this is your book.

I don't try to summarize all the short stories included as that seems tedious. I'll try to give you some highlights. As I've said there aren't really any happy stories in here that I can recall. One involves a boy who goes missing and likely is murdered. Another features a broke husband and wife whose alcoholic son is going to sell their house out from under them. Another is about a man dying of cancer who goes to visit the documentary director who ruined his life. Another is about a woman who disappears, leaving her teenaged son to his own devices. The titular story is about a family visiting France and the terrible accident that befalls their daughter. (Also a lot of the stories involve France, which is probably something overly patriotic Americans, the kind who eat "freedom fries" wouldn't like.)

The titular story could probably make a good Jodi Picoult novel that is then broadcast for the Lifetime network with a lot of crying and screaming and whatnot. Instead of over dramatizing, McCracken focuses on what I would consider more real emotions to the situation. The mother hates what her daughter has become and the burden she will become. The father's hope blinds him from the obvious. The rest of the stories are similar in that regard, never getting over-the-top with the drama.

The downside to this is the stories have a dry feeling to them. Many feel as if they're being told from a great distance, like you're reading a newspaper article about a blog entry about something that happened. Or maybe you could think of it as instead of something happening to you or your loved ones it's like hearing about something that's happened to your second cousin you see at family reunions, funerals, and weddings. Which is I suppose why people gravitate to over dramatizing.

That is all.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
exquisitely crafted collection 22 April 2014
By she treads softly - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken is a very highly recommended collection of nine short stories. Oh my goodness - read this exquisitely crafted collection!

McCracken’s short stories in this collection include:
Something Amazing - one mother grieves the loss of her daughter years before while another has two delinquent sons
Property - a man moves into a rented house thinking it was furnished with the owner's discarded possessions.
Some Terpsichore - an abusive former lover is recalled with nostalgia and pain.
Juliet - librarians react to the murder of one of their patrons
The House of Two Three-Legged Dogs - a man learns his son has broken his trust
Hungry - a woman cares for her granddaughter while her son lies in the hospital
The Lost & Found Department of Greater Boston - deals with how a memory can be viewed differently by different people
Peter Elroy: A Documentary by Ian Casey - a dying man visits a former friend
Thunderstruck - a father and mother struggle to be good parents for their daughter only to then have to deal with the brain injury resulting from her actions

All of the stories feature a slightly oblique point-of-view, as if the normal world is just ever-so-subtly tilted but enough to change perceptions into a reality that seems far removed from the ordinary. McCracken's extraordinary writing ability helps propel the stories forward even as they seem off kilter with life's ironies. She manages to capture despair, tenderness, outrage, and hopefulness, with her keen insight into human behavior and emotions. Everyone is coping with something with various degrees of success, while memory plays tricks on more than one character in this volume.

Some of these short stories were previously published in Granta, Ploughshares, Esquire, Zoetrope: All-Story, The Pushcart Prize, and The Best American Stories.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Random House for review purposes.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"Whatever you have lost there are more of." 2 May 2014
By Amelia Gremelspacher - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
With a deft skill, McCracken the illuminates the world of loss. I sometimes feel that short stories can be purposefully abrupt in order to leave the reader with a given line of thought to ponder. These stories are complete unto themselves, delivering a slice of loss well recognized by those who have experienced it. This is not to say that I was able to leave my thoughts behind at the story's end.

"Property" starts the collection with a luminous enactment of the death if the child. The grief is palpable. In adding the world of ghosts and magic, the author extends rather than blurs the frank reality of that loss. Yet the pain is not gratuitous, and even with the invoking of one's own loss, the writing comforts. I enjoyed all the stories, although "the House of Three Legged Dogs" and "Peter Elroy" less so. I realize then that much of my deep appreciation of this book is the evocation of answering memories and feelings it brings. The stories that were less evocative were then also not my favorites. That being said, you don't need to have shared any of the losses portrayed to find this an exquisite collection well worth your consideration.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Love and Loss 8 May 2014
By Antigone Walsh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Focusing on love and loss, this collection of nine short stories is nicely written and well crafted. The author has a fascination with perception or perhaps, misperception. The characters see through their own filters and shape their choices based on what they think they know. Colliding with an alternative interpretation is like a dash of cold water to the face. Neither interpretation is necessarily wrong but the contrary view opens a world previously unknown or ignored by the other.

Although the prose is beautiful, there is a distance from the characters. I never was engaged with them. Intellectually I understood and appreciated but the lack of emotional involvement deprived me of the catharsis needed to make this a totally successful reading experience. It is one thing to articulate a situation but totally another to communicate on a visceral level. While I understood the emotion, I did not feel the searing pain of loss or the ache of regret. Still the superior craftsmanship makes this collection a worthwhile read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
At the center is an exquisite pain. Well written and very thought provoking. 10 July 2014
By Two kids mom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In Paris I once had a piece of chocolate and at the center was a hot pepper. It was quite unexpected, a price I paid for not speaking French. The contrast between the sweet smooth chocolate and the sharp, actually painful heat of the pepper was exquisite. These stories remind me of that candy. The prose is rich and smooth, but at the center of each tales is pain. The author circles back to a center of hurt. Loss is a common theme, of love, of hope, of self.

I really enjoyed these short stories. The characters are all a little bent, not quite normal, but yet so relatable. These are broken people, maybe not even redeemable, but outlined so well that they could be your slightly crazy neighbor or that woman you see mumbling to herself in the grocery store line.

This is not light reading. Each short story is a little world, and you need time between them to absorb what you have just read.

Highly recommend.

Highly recommend.
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