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Cover of Maggie Brown & Others: Stories
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Maggie Brown & Others: Stories

By: Peter Orner

Publisher: LITTLE BROWN & CO

Imprint: Little Brown and Company

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780316516112

On Sale: | Pages: 336

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  • Reviews
In this powerful and virtuosic collection of interlocking stories, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist takes the form to new heights. In his orchestral and moving new book, Peter Orner, a writer who "doesn't simply bring his characters to life, he gives them souls" (New York Times Book Review), chronicles people whose lives are at inflection points. In forty-four compressed gems, he grips us with a series of defining moments. Whether it's a first date that turns into a late-night road trip to a s ance in an abandoned airplane hangar, or a family's memories of the painful mystery surrounding a forgotten uncle's demise, Orner reveals how our fleeting decisions between kindness and abandonment chase us across time. These stories are anchored by a poignant novella that delivers not only the joys and travails of a forty-year marriage, but an entire era in a working-class New England city. Bristling with the crackling energy of life itself, Maggie Brown & Others marks the most sustained achievement to date for "a master of his form" (New York Times).
In composing stories inspired in part by people he has known and places he has lived, Orner, a Chicago native, writes words that don't disappear. His characters' struggles for human connection might be written in boldface... At the same time, these stories, which are frequently as short as a few lines or paragraphs (the shorter ones may be the best), never seem confined to the pages on which they appear. Though set in different eras, going back to the '60s, as well as in different time zones, they float over and under each other, their recurring characters cutting across time and space. Though they're arranged in titled, suite-like sections, you get the sense that they'd work in any just about any order you chose.... “Maggie Brown & Others” is so full of brilliant, reverberant lines — and cuttingly funny ones as well — they are like critics' popcorn: You can't stop citing 'em.
—Chicago Tribune
Orner writes with a combination of sincerity and self-awareness. He takes a subtle tone of empathy toward his characters' ambitions by acknowledging how simultaneously unremarkable and wrenching their lives feel.... Orner's characters are conscious of unfurling their own stories, determined to do so, yet also aware of the relative futility of the endeavor.... Orner references Cheever and Chekhov and Kermode, clearly models, but the book is in its totality most vividly reminiscent of Raymond Carver...
—San Francisco Chronicle
Though MAGGIE BROWN barely exceeds 300 pages, its 44 stories --- some of them as brief as a page or two --- and a concluding novella so teem with ingenuity, wit and variety that there were times when I felt like a tourist on a bus racing through a country full of impressive sites where I might instead prefer to linger.... Along with its brevity and resistance to formula, a signature feature of Orner's fiction is his fondness for dropping readers into deep water, trusting they'll make their way to solid ground.... Peter Orner's fiction overflows with small moments of illumination, little jolts of hard-earned wisdom and humor that detonate on nearly every page. In his 2016 nonfiction collection, AM I ALONE HERE?, he wrote, “Fiction isn't machinery, it's alchemy.” In MAGGIE BROWN & OTHERS, he's done nothing short of conjuring the dross of everyday life into pure gold.
—Bookreporter.com
There's a beautiful drifting quality to “Maggie Brown & Others,” a sense of being invited inside a roving, kaleidoscopic mind — reluctant to generalize, tender, astute, with an eye for both comedy and heartache — and adopting its rhythms as your own. If Orner is bold in his embrace of unconventional narrative structures and organizing principles (there aren't a lot of Freytag's Pyramids here, and the connections between stories are often oblique), his work is also without pretense, powerfully aware of how difficult it is to capture experience on the page.... Perhaps the collection's most powerful section is its final one, a wonderfully granular, funny yet also moving novella-in-stories set in Fall River, Mass.... Peter Orner is a wonderful guide, training our gaze from window to window, where we find reflections of ourselves even as we glimpse the inscrutable, captivating lives on the other side of the glass.
—New York Times
Orner is aware, it seems, that he's a hard sell. In one story in his excellent new book, "Maggie Brown & Others," he comes close to breaking the fourth wall.... The stories in "Maggie Brown & Others," too, are mostly just a few pages long. They're piers rather than bridges. An upside to this brevity: Your mind is given a lot of pit stops, so you can recharge and load up on snacks for the next stretch of asphalt. A downside: Orner's stories flick by awfully quickly. You can feel you're flipping through boxes of vintage postcards. Your eyes can glaze. There's another upside to writing short. It allows for a lot of trimmings � epigrams, dedications, tips of the hat. It allows for a lot of endings.... Orner can do anything, so he tries to do everything. There's never a sense that he is flailing. His sentences run clear and true.
—New York Times
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