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The Owl That Carries Us Away

Doug Ramspeck


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Fiction. Winner of the G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction, selected by Billy Lombardo. These twenty-nine short and short-short stories, set largely in the contemporary Midwest, echo such primal struggles as mortality, the hunt, growing up with parents who face desperation, and just-out-of-reach dreams for the future. A young boy finds a possum skull and brings it home as compensation for a family tragedy; a newly-married woman imagines that mushrooms are growing from her husband's body; and a woman who absconds with her sister's baby envisions a life for them in Florida. Ramspeck never flinches as his characters confront violence, cruelty, love, and tragedy in ways that are as surprising as they are unsentimental.

Excellent reading for those who value meditative, beautiful storytelling.--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal starred review

Ramspeck's debut collection abounds with flawed families, tense confirmations, and unlikely moments of grace...These precise and resonant stories chronicle humble lives and unspoken traumas, making for a subtle and moving reading experience.--Kirkus Reviews

Ramspeck creates a silence so thick, you flinch to hear dialogue. What isn't silent, is snow-muffled, and what snow there is, is blood-spotted.--Billy Lombardo

One is tempted, in describing Doug Ramspeck's new collection, to use the word 'unflinching'--and indeed, these fictions tackle crises that might tempt many to avert their gaze: dead, missing, or decamped fathers, tragic accidents, romantic disappointment, childhood trauma, awkward aftermaths of all kinds. The problem is that 'unflinching' gives the viewer, or the writer, special credit for not looking away. But flinching is for those who have a choice, and the characters in these spare, close-to-the-bone stories do not. What Ramspeck succeeds in here is to show us, in poignant, lyrical, but never fussy prose, what everyday fortitude looks like, what it's like to look hardship straight in its eye and keep pressing on. These are flawed, sympathetic, fully human characters, and this is a sad, dark, terrific book.--Michael Griffith.

BkMk Press of the University of Missouri-Kans, 9781943491131, 184pp.

Publication Date: April 1, 2018