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  • Posted November 12, 2012

    Best collection of short stories for thoughtful people

    The fourteen stories in Astray almost defy review. In that way that other people’s personal choices confound the opinions of others, each one of these stories demands its own life; but, just like their readers the stories are thematically bound. Stories of coming and going, of crossing the boundries of geography, love and hate, gender, being human or animal.

    Ms. Donoghue manages to put a human narrative to ancient headlines, diary entries and court records that bring the relationships their character have with the people around them into distinctly modern relief. With what must be divine gift, Ms. Donoghue allows us to experience a moment in the lives of people affected by some of history’s greatest miseries: slavery, war, rape, the beginning of animal rights, the ruggedness of law enforcement on the frontier, emigration and graft politics; and to live those moments as the people in them must have done, with only a peripheral awareness of the institutions that dictated their circumstance and a clear focus on the personal and selfish effects of the character’s immediate actions.

    Each story, whether it’s of a German soldier sold to the British for the revolutionary war, of a zookeeper in Victorian England, a graverobber in turn of the century Chicago, a prospector in the gold rush or a sculptor in mid-century Canada has a main character whose life pivots in that moment. Tempered perhaps by zeitgeist, the questions that face Donoghue’s characters are the questions that face each one of us. Are you telling the truth? Are you helping the people you can? Are you dupporting the friends you love? Are you doing what’s right, when it’s not easy? Are you tolerating anyone else’s inability to do the above? It’s clear to TNR that those are the questions Emma Donoghue asks of the characters in her histories, and those are the questions that bind those characters to the present-day reader.

    In fact Ms. Donoghue is explicit in her afterword about her choices of story and theme. It is a rare book that the author feels so close to that she wants to send a special message to prospective readers, and then leave a reader who has finished the book with so clear an explanation of her choices. Only writing this personal can stay in a reader’s mind for days afterward, the images of various stories flashing up as if they were part of one’s own memory.

    The themes in this book might be difficult for some to read, there are travesties of personal rights and sacred relationships in every story. Perhaps some reviewers would find the exposure of Ms. Donoghue’s thoughts and writing choices too personal and self-indulgent. This reader was honored to be “allowed into” Ms. Donoghue’s view of her fellow man. This collection of stories is a thought provoking and inspiring work of art

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    My first Emma Donoghue book was The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabb

    My first Emma Donoghue book was The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits - a short story collection built on historical tidbits and facts that was released in 2002. I've enjoyed many more titles from Donoghue since - Slammerkin remains a favorite. I was thrilled to see that her latest book Astray was again a collection of short stories with their origins found in obscure historical realities.

    In this latest collection Donoghue explores all the ways a life, a person, a path can go astray...." on and off, for the past decade and a half, I've been writing stories about travels to, within, and occasionally from the United States and Canada. Most of these travelers are real people who left traces in the historical record; a few are characters I've invented to put a face on real incidents of border crossing. Many of them stray in several senses, when in the course of their journeys across geographical and political boundaries they find themselves stepping over other ones: law, sex, or race. Emigrants, immigrants, adventurers, and runaways - they fascinate me because they loiter on the margins, stripped of the markers of family and nation; they're out of place, out of their depth."

    The places and times of the stories in Astray are varied, ranging from London to New York to Texas to Canada and more and ranging from the 1600's to the 900's. Donoghue is able to write with different voices and outlooks, providing a fresh and unique outlook with every exploration.

    It's hard to pick favourites, but I think Counting the Days - the story of a reluctant emigre and her husband who went ahead stayed with me. As did The Gift - a series of letters from a mother trying to find her child.

    I absolutely adored this book. Each story was a little glimpse into a life gone before - a reminder of a life, a moment, a time. At the end of each, Donoghue provides us with the 'real' details - the names, the times and the places that these people inhabited. I found myself stopping after each tale, savouring what I'd read and wondering about what might have happened next for those captured by Donoghue's imagination. In a few cases, my interest piqued, I went online and did some research of my own. And, I also stopped in an effort to make the book last longer - I didn't want it to end. Looking for a book to spend that gift card on? Look no further.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite ┬┐Astray┬┐ is an an

    Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite

    “Astray” is an anthology of fourteen short stories that transport the reader to the past where they will meet historical characters who were once emigrants or the reader will experience an event from the past that deals with emigration. Many of the characters will sound familiar to readers; however; readers may not be familiar with the background or inspirations. Through these stories we travel through time, briefly touching down on different eras and different countries. There are too many stories to summarize each one but I would like to mention a few. 'Counting the Days' takes readers back to the days of famish in Ireland. The setting is sometime in the 1840s. The husband has traveled to Quebec ahead of his family. His wife is reluctant to immigrate. One story takes place in the American Wild West. In it a husband is on a binge and it is up to his wife to retrieve him. One story deals with a mother searching for her daughter. This book is beautifully written, entertaining and emotion-filled. At times it made me sad. At other times I was smiling. I could easily listen to this book over and over. Thank you Emma Donoghue!

    Emma Donoghue is a master at writing in the first person. She seems to enter the minds of the characters and conveys their thoughts, words and personalities to readers. Not only does the story change but the author manages to change her outlook My copy was audio and wisely the author chose a multitude of readers rather than just one. The variety of voices made the characters come alive. This book has three unique sections: Departures, In Transit, and Arrivals and Aftermaths.

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  • Posted February 23, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Readers will really enjoy this marvelous collection of uniquely

    Readers will really enjoy this marvelous collection of uniquely wonderful short stories. These are pages from our past, providing images as strikingly real as nearly freezing to death in the frozen wilderness. We are asked to view the lives of the trainer of Jumbo, the magnificent elephant who claimed the attention of a nation and that of a desperate mother, struggling to locate the daughter she sent west on one of the orphan trains.
    Ms. Donoghue writes with compassion and grit, masterfully plunging the reader into the hearts of each character she describes. This is quite an endeavor considering the broad range of subjects and the number of characters involved. Perfect for middle school, high school children and adults who wish to embrace the past.

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  • Posted January 11, 2013

    Fascinating collection of short stories-Highly recommended!!

    Each story in this collection of short stories grew from a seed of fact that the author found in old newspapers and other documents. Each story is stunningly different in setting and voice, yet all share the theme of people set "astray" for one reason or another The variety of characters and the development of plot from a tiny germ of truth made the book very enjoyable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2012

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    0 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 30, 2012

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    Posted July 12, 2013

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    Posted November 30, 2012

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