This is the second book I have read by Elizabeth McCracken. I read The Giant’s House and am eager to read Bowlaway. This short story collection is exactly what I expect in a short story collection. With fewer pages to a story, each sentence needs to be spot-on. I like a collection that has at least some loose thread or theme tying all the stories together. I also like the short stories to be varying lengths of “shortness.”
Thunderstruck contains nine stories and many of the characters are lost or experiencing loss. Families are coping with tragedy but not always in productive ways. These are not happy stories, but many of the characters still have hope. There are some magical or magical realism moments. There is also humor, which is welcome, otherwise these stories might be too depressing. Place, whether it be country or a building also plays a big role. Some of the homes or apartments are characters in themselves. My favorite story is the titular “Thunderstruck”, the final story and the longest of the group. It is about a family with two young daughters who spend part of the summer in Paris in order to stop their 12 year old from going down a bad path. While she thrives and matures in Paris, she ends up going down a terrible path with lasting effects for the whole family.
I would give this collection 10 stars for the gorgeous, gorgeous prose. Ms. McCracken’s descriptive writing is so clever and evocative. In the story “Some Terpsichore” she describes a man as having “a smashed Parker House roll of a nose.” The buildings in a town square in France are “the color of dirty fingernails.” Brilliant! I gave this book 4 stars because I did not enjoy all of the stories. They fit with the collection, but I personally did not care for two of them. However, I would happily reread the other seven. This is a nice introduction to Elizabeth McCracken and will whet your appetite for more.