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Little Sinners, and Other Stories
Cover of Little Sinners, and Other Stories
Little Sinners, and Other Stories
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Winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction, Karen Brown's Little Sinners, and Other Stories features a sad, strange mosaic of women and men grappling with the loss and pain of everyday existence, people inhabiting a suburban landscape haunted by ghosts: a mother who leaps from a ridge, a mistress found at the bottom of the Connecticut River, a father who dresses in a pale blue-custom suit—and disappears. The dead leave behind postcards, houses, bottles of sherry, bones. They become local legends, their stories part of the characters' own: an expectant mother in an isolated cottage on Long Island Sound uncovers an unsettling secret in her backyard; a troubled housewife is lured to a dinner party by a teenage girl whose mother has vanished under mysterious circumstances; a woman and her lover swim the pools of their neighborhood under cover of darkness; a young heiress struggles with mortality and the abandonments in her past.

These stories capture the domestic world in all its blighted promise—a world where women's roles in housekeeping, marriage, childbirth, and sex have been all too well defined, and where the characters fashion, recklessly and passionately, their own methods of escape.

  

Winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction, Karen Brown's Little Sinners, and Other Stories features a sad, strange mosaic of women and men grappling with the loss and pain of everyday existence, people inhabiting a suburban landscape haunted by ghosts: a mother who leaps from a ridge, a mistress found at the bottom of the Connecticut River, a father who dresses in a pale blue-custom suit—and disappears. The dead leave behind postcards, houses, bottles of sherry, bones. They become local legends, their stories part of the characters' own: an expectant mother in an isolated cottage on Long Island Sound uncovers an unsettling secret in her backyard; a troubled housewife is lured to a dinner party by a teenage girl whose mother has vanished under mysterious circumstances; a woman and her lover swim the pools of their neighborhood under cover of darkness; a young heiress struggles with mortality and the abandonments in her past.

These stories capture the domestic world in all its blighted promise—a world where women's roles in housekeeping, marriage, childbirth, and sex have been all too well defined, and where the characters fashion, recklessly and passionately, their own methods of escape.

  

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  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 16, 2012
    Trauma and desire are the dual muses of Brown’s (Pins and Needles) excellent new collection, whose 11 stories explore femininity and dark secrets of the middle class in late-20th-century America. Starting with the title story, about two friends whose cruel childhood prank has unexpected consequences, Brown delivers engaging gems with well-drawn heroines, mostly teenage girls or unhappy wives, whose fates are twisted by the interplay of love and death. Stuck in stifling suburban settings, they struggle to overcome the trauma of loss, either from dead parents, siblings, and children—as in “Passing,” “Mistresses,” “Housewifery,” and “An Heiress Walks into a Bar”—or from the failure of erotic relationships, as in “Homing,” “The Fountain,” and “Swimming.” Brown has a talent for evocative detail, but her ability to explore the perversities of memory and desire in haunting prose is her greatest strength: in “Stillborn,” a pregnant woman uncovers a baby’s remains in the garden of her new house; a wife confronting her husband’s lack of love offers solace to a man whose daughter has died in “Leaf House.” While occasionally marred by overly precious flourishes, the suspenseful writing and menacing erotic tension have a narrative pull that compels attention.

  • Booklist

    August 1, 2012
    Brown's collection of stories won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize and features the lives of women, from childhood to late middle age. Nine of the 12 were published previously in literary journals and magazines. Characters, sometimes notorious in their communities, seek happiness and connection in the wrong places and, unfortunately for them, rarely find it. Brown's detailed style, meticulous in describing character and place, creates realistic slices of life. The endings, either shocking or ambivalent, will surprise and horrify readers. In The Heiress Walks into a Bar, a woman escaping an agonizing medical diagnosis flaunts a hefty bankroll and attracts the attention of a scruffy younger man. The Fountain depicts a divorced woman's painful realization of the emptiness of her new single life. In Housewifery, the idyllic summer of a group of suburban women and their children ends with a little stinger. Brown realistically illustrates the passion, physicality, and character of suburban girls and women. Her stories will appeal to short-fiction readers for their strength of style and depth of emotional resonance.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

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Little Sinners, and Other Stories
Little Sinners, and Other Stories
Karen Brown
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