American Salvage

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New from award-winning Michigan writer Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage is rich with local color and peopled with rural characters who love and hate extravagantly. They know how to fix cars and washing machines, how to shoot and clean game, and how to cook up methamphetamine, but they have not figured out how to prosper in the twenty-first century. Through the complex inner lives of working-class characters, Campbell illustrates the desperation of post-industrial America, where wildlife, jobs, and whole ways ...

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Overview

New from award-winning Michigan writer Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage is rich with local color and peopled with rural characters who love and hate extravagantly. They know how to fix cars and washing machines, how to shoot and clean game, and how to cook up methamphetamine, but they have not figured out how to prosper in the twenty-first century. Through the complex inner lives of working-class characters, Campbell illustrates the desperation of post-industrial America, where wildlife, jobs, and whole ways of life go extinct and the people have no choice but to live off what is left behind.

The harsh Michigan winter is the backdrop for many of the tales, which are at turns sad, brutal, and oddly funny. One man prepares for the end of the world-scheduled for midnight December 31, 1999-in a pole barn with chickens and survival manuals. An excruciating burn causes a man to transcend his racist and sexist worldview. Another must decide what to do about his meth-addicted wife, who is shooting up on the other side of the bathroom door. A teenaged sharpshooter must devise a revenge that will make her feel whole again. Though her characters are vulnerable, confused, and sometimes angry, they are also resolute. Campbell follows them as they rebuild their lives, continue to hope and dream, and love in the face of loneliness.

Fellow Michiganders, fans of short fiction, and general readers will enjoy this poignant and affecting collection of tales.

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Editorial Reviews

Donna Seaman
*Starred Review* The houses are ramshackle, the trucks hard-used, the weather extreme. The men, clad in shabby camouflage, are battered and scarred. They labor at dangerous, soul-killing jobs; hunt; drink too much; and stand by their loved ones no matter how flat-out crazy they are (or they think about killing them). Ditto for the women. Money is tight; the old ways and the precious wildlife are disappearing; loneliness is a plague; and the meth-cookers keep burning down the house. Welcome to rural Michigan, Campbell’s home ground, and a story collection of rare impact. These fine-tuned stories are shaped by stealthy wit, stunning turns of events, and breathtaking insights. Terrible injuries, accidental and otherwise, leave people and animals in misery, but they are salvaged, maybe even healed. Against all odds, salvation counterbalances loss and despair in unexpected ways in this small place of big feelings, where everyone is yoked together for better and worse, and where, as one persistent survivor observes, “what looked like junk to most people could be worth real money.” Campbell’s busted-broke, damaged, and discarded people are rich in longing, valor, forgiveness, and love, and readers themselves will feel salvaged and transformed by this gutsy book’s fierce compassion.
— Booklist
Los Angeles Times
“Campbell’s an American voice—two parts healthy fear, one part awe, one part irony, one part realism.”
Chicago Tribune
“In these stories about cold, lonely, meth-drenched, working-class Michigan life, there’s a certain beauty reaching something like the sublimity of a D. H. Lawrence story.”
Booklist
“Starred Review. These fine-tuned stories are shaped by stealthy wit, stunning turns of events, and breath-taking insights. Campbell’s busted-broke, damaged, and discarded people are rich in longing, valor, forgiveness and love, and readers themselves will feel salvaged and transformed by the gutsy book’s fierce compassion.”
Chicago Literary Scene Examiner
“The effect of American Salvage is that Campbell’s Michigan lingers and cannot be ignored or forgotten.”
Small Press Review
“‘Beware ye who enter here,’ and yet you should and must because the work is so fine and truthful and deeply human, And you will surely know yourself and your world better for having come.”
Laura Kasischke
“A strong collection. The pieces are rich in original detail, and highly atmospheric, while maintaining a satisfying sense of familiar territory, local voices.”
Rachael Perry
“American Salvage is not a book for the cowardly. These daring stories, these desperate characters, would just as soon steal your wallet, break your heart or punch you in the gut than openly admit that redemption is possible during these dark times. But it is just this improbable hope that makes her work brilliant. This is Bonnie Jo Campbell at her bravest and best.”
Jack Driscoll
“At their best these stories reflect what Robert Lowell refers to as ‘the grace of accuracy,’ which might simply be a way of saying that the voice overall convinces at every turn. By voice I mean personality, and these quirky, surprising, sometimes arcane and visceral and big-hearted stories resonate in ways that keep me nodding. . . . I love the risk of each story and how, in the midst of hilarity, a much more serious concern unfolds so that I’d find myself both laughing out loud and squeezing my heart dry simultaneously.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814334126
  • Publisher: Wayne State University Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2009
  • Series: Made in Michigan Writers Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Bonnie Jo Campbell is the author of the novel Once Upon a River (July 2011, W.W. Norton). She was a 2009 National Book Award finalist and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for her collection of stories American Salvage, which won the Foreword Book of the Year award for short fiction. Campbell is also author of the novel Q Road and the story collection Women & Other Animals. She's received the AWP Award for Short Fiction, a Pushcart Prize, and the Eudora Welty Prize, and she has been awarded a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 26, 2010

    Don't look for yourself, but find out anyhow.

    These are stories about the down and out and those looking for a way out. Just gripping storytelling that stops, surprises you, and urges you to read the next story. With clean, (deceptively) simple writing, she quickly delineates her characters and life situations. You think you might know someone like that, or someone who is feeling like that, or you remember feeling like that. There is an intelligence and resignation about human nature in her characters, but they also have a strong will to see things through. This writer has quite a mind. I now am reading Bonnie Jo Campbell's other works and hope I find a novel among her short stories.

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  • Posted July 11, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    stories about people you might know

    A collection of short stories that end abruptly, leaving you wanting more, while at the same time sparking your imagination as to what happens next. Excellent character development and scene descriptive text. Especially if you live in the Midwest, it's easy to visualize the stories as you read them, easy to picture your own family, friends and acquaintances in these same situations.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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