Book Review: Antonya Nelson

5 Jun


I first discovered Antonya Nelson in a short story published in The New Yorker called “Or Else.”  The library at the university I studied abroad in Rome was small but had back issues of magazines I used to read in between classes, enjoying the peacefulness.

I saw a collection of Nelson’s short stories in the library recently and didn’t realize I had read her before until I got to “Or Else.” Nothing Right is a bittersweet, poignant collection; the drama concerns family difficulties and the ensuing ripples.  Most of the stories don’t have the big ending twist that are too common among the work of acclaimed writers.  All of the families were relatable in some way, despite their complications.  My favorite passage from the story, “Shauntrelle,” has wisps of my own relationship with my father:

Her husband William had been adamant about the paper.  Their daughter had developed his habits, every morning the two of them sighing over the war, scoffing at malapropisms in headlines or quotes.  His intention had been to educate her, but Constance thought it only made the girl feel depressed and superior, which was perhaps the same thing as being educated.

Each story is a fairly quick read, so it’s great for summer travel reading that makes you think.  Especially if you’re traveling with your family.

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