A masterly collection of new stories from Russell Banks, acclaimed author of The Sweet Hereafter and Rule of the Bone, which maps the complex terrain of the modern American family.
The New York Times lauds Russell Banks as "the most compassionate fiction writer working today," and hails him as a novelist who delivers, "wrenching, panoramic visions of American moral life." Long celebrated for his unflinching, empathetic works that explore the unspoken but hard realities of contemporary culture, Banks now turns his keen intelligence and emotional acuity on perhaps his most complex subject yet: the shape of family in its many forms.
Suffused with Banks's trademark lyricism and reckless humor, the 12 stories in A Permanent Member of the Family examine the myriad ways we try - and sometimes fail - to connect with one another, as we seek a home in the world. In the title story, a father looks back on the legend of the cherished family dog whose divided loyalties mirrored the fragmenting of his marriage.
Moving between the stark beauty of winter in upstate New York and the seductive heat of Florida, A Permanent Member of the Family charts with subtlety and precision the ebb and flow of both the families we make for ourselves and the ones we're born into, as it asks how we know the ones we love and, in turn, ourselves. One of our most acute and penetrating authors, Banks's virtuosic writing animates stories that are profoundly humane, deeply - and darkly - funny, and absolutely unforgettable.
©2013 Russell Banks (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers
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This is my first Russell Banks book. In this book of short stories Mr. Banks seems to use almost a formula or a common methodology in each of these stories.
I was fully engaged in the plot and characters. The prose rich, the plots detailed and interesting.
A few of the stories: Connie is a former Marine who raised his three sons by himself after his wife left the family. He is now unemployed and possibly broke after a lifetime of hard work. He sees himself as Father and Marine and has taught his sons to do the right thing. Each of his sons work in law enforcement and the problem is that Connie is desperate. He refuses to be dependent on his sons; he resorts to the unthinkable.
Another story is about a couple with two daughters who divorce and share custody, their old beloved dog becomes the glue that holds them all together still.
And in another story set in Miami a woman is caught and terrorized by an angry guard dog in a used car lot after hours.
In "Snowbirds", one of my favorite stories in the book, a friend comes down south to console and help her newly widowed best friend. The two women begin to question the status quo of their lives.
I've outlined only a few of the stories, each left me somewhat empty, wondering.This in and of itself may not be bad, but I needed/wanted something else or more.
I want to give both 5 stars and 2 stars, because in many ways each story was really good. So therefore I'm sorry that I cannot write a more concise review, obviously this book has left me conflicted.
I look forward to other reviews
Russell Banks's collection of short stories features numerous O. Henry-like plot twists. The problem is that many of these twists are completely implausible ("Blue") or, if believable, visible from a mile off ("Former Marine," "The Green Door"). The writing is serviceable, but rarely truly arresting.
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