Friday, October 10, 2014

"Thunderstruck," by Elizabeth McCracken

I seem to be reading a lot of short story collections these days. The latest is “Thunderstruck” (Dial Press, 2014), by Elizabeth McCracken. I had not heard of this author until I read reviews of this new book, but it turns out that she is an established, esteemed and award-winning writer. This reminds me, yet again, of how very many good fiction writers there are, and how even readers who follow the reviews in many periodicals and other sources cannot possibly know about more than a fraction of them. This is both a good thing – how wonderful it is that there are so many gifted writers and terrific books! – and an unfortunate one – many good writers get overlooked, and readers cannot possibly keep up. In any case, I now feel I have “discovered” another terrific author of fiction. McCracken writes about very human characters, involved in very human relationships and interactions: those to do with love and families, as well as neighbors and coworkers and people randomly met as well. (Regular readers of this blog know that these are exactly the qualities I like in fiction.) The characters are very believable, yet neither they nor the things that happen to them are predictable. Which reminds me of an important element in fiction, perhaps especially in short stories: that of surprise. It is a delicate balance between making readers believe the stories and yet keeping them on edge with unexpected events and developments. McCracken manages this balance beautifully.

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