North American Lake Monsters

Stories
Narrated by: Travis Young
Length: 6 hrs and 47 mins
4.1 out of 5 stars (197 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this striking and bleak, yet luminous debut collection, Nathan Ballingrud, winner of the inaugural Shirley Jackson Award, uses the trappings of the Gothic and the uncanny to investigate a distinctly American landscape: The loneliest and darkest corners of contemporary life.

Ballingrud’s stories are love stories. They’re also monster stories. Sometimes the monsters collected here are vampires or werewolves. Sometimes they wear the faces of parents, lovers, brothers, or ex-wives, and sometimes they wear the faces we see in our mirrors. The people in these stories - ex-cons, single parents, unemployed laborers, kids seduced by extremism - are stranded by life, driven to desperate acts by love and a longing for connection. Sometimes they’re ruined; sometimes redeemed. They are always recognizably, wonderfully, and terrifyingly human. Even at their most monstrous.

©2013 Nathan Ballingrud (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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What listeners say about North American Lake Monsters

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Superb collection of truly original stories

These are some of the freshest and most astonishing short stories I have read in my 40+ years. They defy categorization, as most contain elements of fantasy, horror, surrealism, and mystery; but all are rooted in a tradition of emotional realism. Many critics have pointed out that these stories would be just as effective with the fantastical elements removed, which is totally true and totally misses the point; because it is the very element of the fantastical and uncanny that sets these stories in a category of their own and makes reading then such a joy. These are amazing tales that will live in your mind long after you have finished them. I strongly encourage everyone to give this collection (as well as Ballingrud's excellent new collection "Wounds") a try. You will not be disappointed.

4 people found this helpful

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Interesting

Some of the stories were hard to follow and I was a bit lost if they were psychological or physically happening. Sometimes I fell a little out of interest. It was pretty eerie though. With that being said, the narrator practically brings every character to life with his acting, barely a dull moment while he reads, his accent is really good too!

1 person found this helpful

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Great writing - lots of pain

I begin listen around 11:30 and finished the third story by about 2:00 a.m. The writing is great; the narration is great. (Nathan has a thing for all kinds of light, stars, luminosity, as you will see). But, man, these are characters in pain. I love the stories, but they're painful, and I don't expect to listen to three in a row again.

1 person found this helpful

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Fantastic

great writing and tone. these stories stick with you. not so much gore but something deeper. solid

1 person found this helpful

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it just feels unfinished

many of the stories stop at points that I suppose are meant to feel mysterious, but they just feel lazy and unresolved. Also some of the dialogue is hard to follow the way its written when read aloud. The narrator did the best he could.

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Dark and Potent

Pretty fantastic throughout, with ambiguously dark tales that leave you pondering for hours afterwards.

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Simply Brilliant

I had the opportunity to meet Nathan in November of 2019 and have him as a guest on my podcast in April of 2020. In between those times, I read his newest collection, Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell, and fell in love with not only the terror that oozed from the pages but the way the stories themselves take hold of your psyche and settle in the back of your mind for the days and weeks to come. North American Lake Monsters was an obvious choice to pick up and let me tell you, it not only builds on the deep, unsettling darkness I experienced in Wounds, but heaps on layers of sadness and lost hope mixed with supernatural creatures that are just beyond the periphery. If this doesn't seal him as one of the finest short story writers ever, what more could you ask for? This collection is simply brilliant and not for the faint of heart. These stories carry a weight that will crush you if you aren't careful.

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  • MD
  • 04-28-20

The best short story collection I’ve read thus far

Nathan Ballingrud has achieved something spectacular with this book. “North American Lake Monsters” just might be the best story collection I’ve read/listened to thus far. Although I haven’t read an abundance of short story collections, I get the strong feeling that few authors will be able to surpass, let alone match, the tact and beauty with which Ballingrud tackles pitch black subject matter. This author’s capacity for vivid, unique, and well paced storytelling, is absolutely mind boggling to me. He seems to have an endless arsenal of harrowing and gorgeous metaphors, which make the plot lines move more efficiently rather than bogging them down. His style of writing feels like a cross between that of Kealan Patrick Burke and Stephen King. The actual story arcs themselves are extremely well thought out, and consistently manage to claw into your emotions. If you go into this expecting traditional horror tropes and payoffs though, you will be disappointed. These stories primarily focus on characters who evolve as a result of the dark or supernatural events that take place in their lives. Nathan Ballingrud treats the horror in these plots as a darkness that simply exist in our world, as opposed to something that goes beyond human comprehension. These are slice of life stories which will burrow themselves deep into your heart and mind. While I adored all the tales in this collection, the standout stories for me would have to be “The Monsters of Heaven,” Wild Acre,” and “The Good Husband.” The wide range of emotions I experienced while reading/listening to these stories took me by surprise. I definitely knew I was in for something special though, once I got 5 minutes into the very first tale. “The Crevasse,” a story which was a collaborative effort featuring Dale Bailey, is the most unrelentingly horrifying one in the whole collection. It has a tone of dread that continuously gets amplified until the brilliant climax. Overall, this book is not only easy to recommend, but also one I feel should be essential reading material in literary circles, or for any horror fan that wants a completely original experience. This collection is a masterpiece, and I cannot wait to read Ballingrud’s next book, “Wounds.” It should also be noted that Travis Young’s narration is outstanding, and really fits the mood of these stories perfectly.

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Excellent performance of riveting and tragic horror tales

Any of these stories would be gold if only for the tragic circumstances and actions of their protagonists, and THEN the horror sets in. Ballingrud’s prose rings poetic in the vein of Cormac McCarthy. These are heartbreaking stories illuminated by horror. Travis Young’s strong Georgia accent lends credence to the socially and morally impoverished characters. Ignore the handful of audio hiccups where the sound is momentarily louder on a re-recorded sentence. The performance of these riveting stories will command your attention.

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Great potential. Uneven quality.

First and last are good. Stories in between seem a little sophomoric. I don't think they made the right choice of narrator. His homespun accident did not suit some of the stories. Sometimes it felt like I was listening to a narration by comedian, Ron White., and it would take me out of the story.

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  • David Slater
  • 07-30-20

Fantastic!

This is exactly what I've been looking for all my life. A book which is scary and unsettling but completely real. The depth of character and trueness of their stories is almost unbearable at times. This isn't throwaway scares. You are in the hands of a great writer with this collection. There are a few odd level issues with the recording where one or two lines will suddenly be louder. It bothered me when it first happened but its so infrequent and the narration is so good that I forgot it happened after a while. Can't recommend this enough!

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  • Oliver
  • 10-18-19

Realism and horror

This was an excellent, ground-breaking collection. Ballingrud has a distinct authorial voice I immediately warmed to: earthy and naturalistic, he portrays perfectly, and with great compassion, characters dealing with poverty, grief, homelessness, loss, anger etc.: it is realism of the highest quality. Into this he then adds elements of horror/supernaturalism, to greater and lesser degrees depending on the story. This mix is never jarring; the weird elements work to magnify and embellish the psyches of the characters, whilst also suggesting things monstrous and bizarre just out of reach of our senses. I can't say that I have read any weird fiction quite like it before. Special mention must go to Travis Young's narration; his tone suited these stories perfectly, and his reading was exemplary. Do not hesitate to listen to this if you enjoy horror/weird fiction, but I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates good literature. This writer really deserves greater exposure.