A .38 Special and a Broken Heart

A .38 Special and a Broken Heart

by Jonis Agee

Finalist, 1995 Minnesota Book Award for Short Stories.¶Critically acclaimed novelist Jonis Agee continues the popular Coffee-To-Go Series with stories grappling with heartbreak, anger, betrayal, and survival."Deft characterization and sharp, visceral imagery."—Publishers Weekly  See more details below


Finalist, 1995 Minnesota Book Award for Short Stories.¶Critically acclaimed novelist Jonis Agee continues the popular Coffee-To-Go Series with stories grappling with heartbreak, anger, betrayal, and survival."Deft characterization and sharp, visceral imagery."—Publishers Weekly

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This new volume in the Coffee-to-Go Short-Short Story series explores the tangled intersections of love and death. Most of the 29 selections are ``momentary stories'' that ``fling themselves at you and you don't have any choice but catch them.'' A few stories-such as ``Walking the Dog'' and ``Doors''-have minimal plot, becoming instead lyric statements about the painful coexistence of lovers. In other stories, Agee's female protagonists are scarred but spirited. The narrator of ``Size'' confesses to the local minister that she has ``a white trash soul'' and defies gossip to court a midget. The comic story ``Invisible'' reveals a motel maid's exquisite revenge (involving Super Glue and roach killer) against the traveling salesman who two-timed her. ``Dead Space'' is one of the murky and enigmatic stories in which Agee uses surreal images from dreams to capture the mundane reality of grief. Most of her tales are from the perspective of the wronged woman, but in ``Listen'' she anticipates and rebuts the objections of a pompous male critic. ``I told him that you have to be careful when you break horses that you don't break their spirit too.'' This spirit resounds in the splendid economy of Agee's deft characterization and sharp, visceral imagery. (May)
Library Journal
There is a symbiosis between these three volumes of short stories. Each deals with the experience of being a woman, touching on the complexity of the mother-daughter relationship and exploring connections and limitations in women's lives. The stories are differentiated by the authors' style and approach. Agee's collection is part of the "Coffee-To-Go Short-Short Story" series. Indeed, some of the stories are extremely short-only one page. They are more appropriately vignettes, or fleeting impressions, and the writing style is stream of consciousness. Many of the stories feature an undercurrent of violence, and none is particularly upbeat. Three of Agee's books have been judged Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, and this one demonstrates the same fine quality. Similar in style to Agee's book, Redel's first collection comprises 16 stories. Her stories tend to be a little longer but again focus on women's issues. "A Day in the Park" portrays a mother covering her two sons with leaves and twigs and bedding down in the park for the night, not unlike animals. This tale is oddly moving, but others tend to be challenging as they have no discernible plots. Redel's book is not an easy, relaxing read. Unlike these two volumes, Lorenzo's contains nine longer stories. Lorenzo creates a rich atmosphere and weaves a plot into each of the tales. They are beautifully written accounts of women grappling with difficult choices, the consequences of biology, and their (sometimes philandering) men. Lorenzo won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction for the title story of this collection. All three collections are recommended for general readers.-Kimberly G. Allen, MCI Corporate Information Resources Ctr., Washington, D.C.
Kirkus Reviews
You can go home again, the heroine of Agee's earthy, deeply satisfying latest discovers—you just can't expect home to be easy, or life there particularly simple.

Agee (Strange Angels, 1993, etc.) has always demonstrated a distinctive skill for creating complex, tough-minded, open-hearted women. In the past, though, her novels—while zesty—have sometimes felt loose, too filled with rich talk at the expense of incident. Here, the talk (wonderfully salty and vigorous without seeming archaic or forced) is in the service of a lively and convincing plot. Middle-aged Moline Bedwell, having survived a disastrous marriage and the death of several loved ones, returns home to Resurrection, Missouri, in the Ozarks, in search of sanctuary. But solace is in short supply: The wonderfully named Heart Hog corporation wants to buy up much of the land around Resurrection for development, effectively splitting the townsfolk into two warring camps—those hungry for the freedom they believe money and change will bring, and those convinced that what's best about Resurrection is its isolation. Moline also encounters Dayrell Bell, the still handsome love of her youth. She'd left Resurrection in the aftermath of an accident that left Dayrell badly injured, and a young girl dead. Dayrell, it turns out, is as charming, and seemingly as wayward, as ever. He also still seems to labor under the influence of his violent, self-destructive brother McCall, who's been recruited by Heart Hog to apply pressure to those unwilling to give up their land. Moline finds herself reluctantly drawn into the battle on the side of the preservationists, and back into Dayrell's orbit. Meanwhile, Agee gently peels away the many layers of history that accumulate when a family has lived in one place for a very long time. There's a pleasing and believable succession of secrets revealed. And Moline and Dayrell's wary courtship is among the most brambly, and original, in recent fiction.

One of the best novels by anyone writing today about the old, long-settled corner of the South.

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Product Details

Coffee House Press
Publication date:
Coffee-To-Go Short-Short Story Series Series
Product dimensions:
4.50(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.40(d)

What People are saying about this

Frederick Busch
"Agee has written a beautiful, tough novel that her characters inhabit so persuavely we become like kin."
Marge Piercy
"Stories sharp enough to cut your fingers on....you can read them in five minutes, but they will stay with you all day."

Meet the Author

onis Agee is the author of four novels, Sweet Eyes, Strange Angels, South of Resurrection, and The Weight of Dreams, four collections of short fiction, Pretend We've Never Met, Bend This Heart, A .38 SPECIAL AND A BROKEN HEART, and TAKING THE WALL, and a book of poetry, Houses. Three of her books—Strange Angels, Bend This Heart, and Sweet Eyes—were named Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times. TAKING THE WALL won the Foreword Magazine Editor's Choice Award and The Weight of Dreams won the Nebraska Book Award. Jonis Agee is a Nebraska native who has lived and taught throughout the Midwest. She is now Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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