18 August, 2016

Thunderstruck and other stories, by Elizabeth McCracken

Some of the most affecting and effective short stories are ones in which humour and sadness, though seemingly at odds, work harmoniously together.

“Thunderstruck” and the other eight fictions in this slender volume are definitely funny–sad, and they are excellent. 

Death weaves in and out of their pages. There’s the ghost of Missy Goodby, “dressed in a pair of ectoplasmic dungarees”; the disappearing Karen Blackbird, with “muddy circles under her eyes”; and the father for whom Things Do Not Look Good (he’s on a ventilator).

Of course, we also meet the living: the mother who seals her daughter’s room; the son who is starving; the woman who fights to hide grief from a grandchild.

Humour is speckled throughout. It’s tempting to quote bits of it, but without their surroundings they may lose their piquancy, and what jolts one person’s funnybone might slide straight past another’s.

McCracken is a mistress of the pithy observation – an apparently throwaway line that stays with the reader.

One that struck me, from a character with little left to lose, was Six-dollar wine. Wine for people who either don’t drink wine or drink too much of it.”

In Thunderstruck and other stories, I think you too will find something that strikes a chord or hits a nerve: maybe several (somethings, chords and/or nerves).

Elizabeth McCracken was a delightful discovery for many of us who attended this year’s Auckland Writers Festival. Do read her, and spread the word.

Recommended by Claire G, Grey Lynn Library

Claire G reads widely, writes narrowly, pampers her poultry and neglects her garden. She thinks Leonard Cohen was right about where the light gets in.

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