Astray [NOOK Book]

Overview

The fascinating characters that roam across the pages of Emma Donoghue's stories have all gone astray: they are emigrants, runaways, drifters, lovers old and new. They are gold miners and counterfeiters, attorneys and slaves. They cross other borders too: those of race, law, sex, and sanity. They travel for love or money, incognito or under duress.

With rich historical detail, the celebrated author of Room takes us from puritan Massachusetts ...
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Astray

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Overview

The fascinating characters that roam across the pages of Emma Donoghue's stories have all gone astray: they are emigrants, runaways, drifters, lovers old and new. They are gold miners and counterfeiters, attorneys and slaves. They cross other borders too: those of race, law, sex, and sanity. They travel for love or money, incognito or under duress.

With rich historical detail, the celebrated author of Room takes us from puritan Massachusetts to revolutionary New Jersey, antebellum Louisiana to the Toronto highway, lighting up four centuries of wanderings that have profound echoes in the present. Astray offers us a surprising and moving history for restless times.
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
The type of historical fiction in which an author takes actual people…and puts thoughts into their heads and words into their mouths can seem presumptuous, especially when the author is less intelligent and interesting than the person whose thoughts he is trying to imagine. This is not the case with Donoghue: her work…is sensitive and intuitive, and her narrative voice moves fearlessly between centuries and between genders…Donoghue displays a ventriloquist's uncanny ability to slip in and out of voices…As [she] points out in her afterword, many of these characters stray not only across geographical boundaries but across those of law, sex or race. Donoghue reveals them all, in their places of exile, with gentle yet devastating truth.
—Brooke Allen
The Washington Post
Readers looking for the visceral power of Room will find tastes of it, but in small, snack-size packages…Donoghue slips into various periods with a costumer's agility. But what is most impressive about these stories is her ability to plumb historical footnotes for timeless emotional resonance and reanimate "real people who left traces in the historical record."
—Heller McAlpin
Publishers Weekly
The stories in Donoghue’s new collection all come, to varying degrees, from historical records; the author of Room, who studied 18th-century literature at Cambridge, has a gift for reading historical documents and picking out the odd, telling detail. There’s the Plymouth Plantation man who accuses his neighbors of indecency, in “The Lost Seed”; the woman who gives her daughter up for adoption, then writes the Children’s Aid Society demanding her return, in “The Gift”; the Tammany Hall bigwig found to be a woman, in “Daddy’s Girl”; all outlines begging to be filled in. The 14 stories are all short (many too short), and by the time they’ve set up the circumstances and the era, they’re almost done, and we’re leaving characters we know as creatures of a time and place rather than individuals. When Donoghue establishes a distinct voice and person, the stories are vivid, curious, and honest: we’ll remember the serial Puritan accuser and the young German soldier in revolutionary America long after we’ve forgotten other characters—like Jumbo the Victorian elephant and his keeper or the men who tried to hold Abraham Lincoln’s body for ransom—in stories that are notable more for the historical moments they reconstruct than for the people who inhabit them. Agent: Kathleen Anderson. (Oct.)
Time
"Donoghue's affinity for yesteryear's untold tales is charming, and her talent for dialect is hard to overstate, which is why it's the first-person stories in ASTRAY that shine brightest....Each and every one of Donoghue's characters leaves an impression."
People
Haunting.... These seekers and their stories pull you in-and stir your heart.
(Editors' Choice) - The New York Times Book Review
"Gentle yet devastating..."
The Huffington Post
"We were interested to see if [Donoghue's] third-person narration skills translated well into the oftentimes more complicated vernacular of adults hailing from different eras and different corners of the globe.... In our opinion, she succeeded."
Boston Globe
"Her new and splendid collection...is all about breaking through barriers."
People (4 stars)
"Haunting.... These seekers and their stories pull you in-and stir your heart."
The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)
"Gentle yet devastating..."
Ann Patchett
"Time and again, Emma Donoghue writes books that are unlike anything I have ever seen before, and ASTRAY is no exception. There is such a deep and compassionate imagination at work in every story in this collection that ASTRAY feels almost like an act of clairvoyance."
Colum McCann
"Emma Donoghue is one of the great literary ventriloquists of our time. Her imagination is kaleidoscopic. She steps borders and boundaries with great ease and style. In her hands the centuries dissolve, and then they crystallize back again into powerful words on the page."
Kristine Huntley
"...Masterful.... Revolutionary-era New Jersey, Civil War-era Texas, the gold rush Yukon, and many other settings come to life in this wonderfully imaginative, transporting collection."
Emily Temple
"Donoghue applies her talents for characterization and depth of feeling over and over again as she documents restless wanderers and lost souls across four generations, each in a world as strange and real as the last."
Time Magazine
"Donoghue's affinity for yesteryear's untold tales is charming, and her talent for dialect is hard to overstate, which is why it's the first-person stories in ASTRAY that shine brightest....Each and every one of Donoghue's characters leaves an impression."
Stephan Lee
"[The] tales...feel like discoveries, stories that were waiting to be told."
Mike Fischer
"This collection is filled with such acts of imaginative sympathy-each chiseling all that one can, from what Donoghue aptly describes as 'the shadowy mass of all that's been lost.'"
Margaret Quamme
"The stories are taut, vivid and memorable, and the collection reveals Donoghue's remarkable gift for placing herself in the minds of people who otherwise might be lost to history."
Sam Sacks
"The stories are showcases for a wide range of speaking voices studded with period vernacular."
Holloway McCandless
"Fans of...Room will recognize the same imaginative flexibility and ventriloquism in ASTRAY, only multiplied and lightly patinated.... A refreshing break from the trend of linked collections; each story is entirely discrete, and strong enough to be read in isolation."
(4 stars) - People Magazine
"Haunting.... These seekers and their stories pull you in-and stir your heart."
Mameve Medwed
"Splendid.... "[An] original and compelling collection."
Caroline Leavitt
"From England, Canada and the United States, Donoghue has created a restless world of travelers, finders and seekers, as well as a book that is an interactive narrative hybrid, one that gets us lost in other lives, that probes our history, that reveals the artist behind the word and that ultimately shows us something fresh, unsettling and enduring about ourselves."
Brooke Allen
"Sensitive and intuitive...moves fearlessly between centuries and between genders.... Donoghue displays a ventriloquist's uncanny ability to slip in and out of voices....[and she] reveals them all, in their place of exile, with gentle yet devastating truth."
Patricia Hagen
"Donoghue is...something of a literary archaeologist, speaking in voices that have been lost.... Donoghue's empathic imagination is remarkable...so convincing[] that the reader feels these stories could be actual historical narratives."
Sandy Leonard
"A rich roster of tales [and] a real adventure in reading.... Donoghue's gift for storytelling is remarkable...."
Rob Merrill
"Donoghue is gifted at imagining narrators from all walks of life.... Anyone who appreciates a well-told tale will enjoy these 14 short stories. It's perfect for the bedside table or the quiet commute-rich tales by a writer near the top of her game."
Heller McAlpin
"Donoghue's ASTRAY masters the long reach of short tales.... What is most impressive about these stories is her ability to plumb historical footnotes for timeless emotional resonance and reanimate 'real people who left traces in the historical record.'"
Connie Ogle
"[An] intriguing new story collection...Change is inevitable for the migrant-and for us all. In ASTRAY, Donoghue makes us tremble at the idea and revel in its possibilities."
Maggie Galehouse
"Dazzling.... [A]ll the voices are so distinct, the plots so diverse, that the reading experience is a bit like nibbling from a long, strange, trippy literary buffet. Comedy, history, legal drama, political intrigue, adventure...all served up side by side in one volume. It's wonderful."
Tarra Gaines
"Reading ASTRAY is a bit like watching a magician create a wondrous illusion before you and then reveal a few enticing hints as to how she did it."
Bobby Blanchard
"A well-written collection of short stories that go back and forth between despair and hope."
Sharra Rosichan
"Donoghue breathes life into stories that seem like nothing more than footnotes in the grand scheme of history, but are important reminders of all the little things we miss looking at the big picture."
Claire Messud
"These stories are striking for their range and freedom.... One senses cumulatively throughout this book the capacious curiosity of Emma Donoghue's mind, and the breadth of her knowledge.... Never dull, these stories illuminate worlds like a magic lantern....Donoghue's imagination can alight upon almost anything and revivify it."
Jake Cline
"ASTRAY is an exceptional uniting of history and imagination."
Claudia Puig
"A beautifully rendered collection of hauntingly vivid short stories.... Redolent with historical details, Donoghue's tales are enthralling.... Each story is so complete that there's a sense of mourning as one comes to a close, but also a thrill as to what she will come up with next.... She could not have assembled a richer cast of characters. We sense Donoghue's compassion for all of them-even the least appealing ones like the ultra-judgmental Englishman who settles in Yarmouth or the Illinois counterfeiters who conspired to steal Abraham Lincoln's corpse. Gorgeously written and thoroughly engrossing, ASTRAY captures the uncertainty and complexity of settling into unknown turf. The voices of her characters reverberate in our heads, long after putting the book down."
Ed Tarkington and Chapter16.org
"[Donoghue is] one of those rare literary alchemists who can deliver a story that is both sensationally suspenseful and richly satisfying in the artistry of its sentences and the depth and seriousness of its themes."
Tobias Carroll
"Emma Donoghue's characters seem thoroughly unique and alive."
Eileen Weiner
"Illuminating.... [and] affecting..."
Natalie Danford
"The characters in Emma Donoghue's solid collection ASTRAY are on the move and similarly are sure to move readers."
Susan Balee
"A strong collection.... Donoghue is first rate.... Real people can't go backward, but writers can, and Donoghue does so with great success."
Jimmy So
"The author of Room displays her mastery at inventing the speech of the most unlikely characters in this story collection.... How do people sound? That's one of the primary concerns of a writer. Get that right, and everything follows. Donoghue gets it right, as anyone who's read Room would know.... Donoghue reads like she takes a dry eraser and deletes chunks of letters and words-there's something constantly missing, and parts of the world are a mystery. But isn't that how we think to ourselves, as Joyce demonstrated, skipping over the river of thoughts and refusing to bother explaining the obvious or the visual? With such ingenuity, Donoghue achieves the effect of creating magic and wonder in the real world. To follow Donoghue into the unknown is one of the most pleasurable experiences I can think of."
Jessica Freeman-Slade
"Wildly informative and engaging.... Donoghue...throws the windows of the world open in fourteen stories of wanderlust, exploration, and possibilities promised by new and unknown lands.... By giving us true stories of wanderers and vagabonds in search of broader vistas, Donoghue has given narrative weight to both the journey and the destination. And in offering up history newly made into stories, Donoghue makes the journey of literary reinvention into its own reward."
Terri Schlichenmeyer
"In...ASTRAY...imagination becomes possibility.... Moving through the centuries with her short stories, Donoghue turns everyday situations and period-piece slice-of-life situations into something of which O. Henry and Paul Harvey would be proud. Indeed, some of these tales start with a little sleight of word, poking our emotions in one way, then slowly twisting them into another direction before giving us the real story. You never know where these tales will end, and that's a good thing."
Nina Sankovitch
"A marvel of imagination, in which Donoghue utilizes items she's found over the years...to create unforgettable stories about change..."
Susan Balée
"A strong collection.... Donoghue is first rate.... Real people can't go backward, but writers can, and Donoghue does so with great success."
-Ann Patchett
"Time and again, Emma Donoghue writes books that are unlike anything I have ever seen before, and ASTRAY is no exception. There is such a deep and compassionate imagination at work in every story in this collection that ASTRAY feels almost like an act of clairvoyance."
From the Publisher
"Donoghue's ASTRAY masters the long reach of short tales.... What is most impressive about these stories is her ability to plumb historical footnotes for timeless emotional resonance and reanimate 'real people who left traces in the historical record.'"—Heller McAlpin, The Washington Post

"[An] intriguing new story collection...Change is inevitable for the migrant-and for us all. In ASTRAY, Donoghue makes us tremble at the idea and revel in its possibilities."—Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald

"We were interested to see if [Donoghue's] third-person narration skills translated well into the oftentimes more complicated vernacular of adults hailing from different eras and different corners of the globe.... In our opinion, she succeeded."—The Huffington Post

"Dazzling.... [A]ll the voices are so distinct, the plots so diverse, that the reading experience is a bit like nibbling from a long, strange, trippy literary buffet. Comedy, history, legal drama, political intrigue, adventure...all served up side by side in one volume. It's wonderful."—Maggie Galehouse, The Houston Chronicle

"Reading ASTRAY is a bit like watching a magician create a wondrous illusion before you and then reveal a few enticing hints as to how she did it."—Tarra Gaines, Houston Cultural Map

"A well-written collection of short stories that go back and forth between despair and hope."—Bobby Blanchard, The Daily Texan

"Donoghue breathes life into stories that seem like nothing more than footnotes in the grand scheme of history, but are important reminders of all the little things we miss looking at the big picture."—Sharra Rosichan, The Tennessean

"Her new and splendid collection...is all about breaking through barriers."—Boston Globe

"These stories are striking for their range and freedom.... One senses cumulatively throughout this book the capacious curiosity of Emma Donoghue's mind, and the breadth of her knowledge.... Never dull, these stories illuminate worlds like a magic lantern....Donoghue's imagination can alight upon almost anything and revivify it."—Claire Messud, The New York Review of Books

"ASTRAY is an exceptional uniting of history and imagination."—Jake Cline, The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel"A beautifully rendered collection of hauntingly vivid short stories.... Redolent with historical details, Donoghue's tales are enthralling.... Each story is so complete that there's a sense of mourning as one comes to a close, but also a thrill as to what she will come up with next.... She could not have assembled a richer cast of characters. We sense Donoghue's compassion for all of them-even the least appealing ones like the ultra-judgmental Englishman who settles in Yarmouth or the Illinois counterfeiters who conspired to steal Abraham Lincoln's corpse. Gorgeously written and thoroughly engrossing, ASTRAY captures the uncertainty and complexity of settling into unknown turf. The voices of her characters reverberate in our heads, long after putting the book down."—Claudia Puig, USA Today (4 stars)

"[Donoghue is] one of those rare literary alchemists who can deliver a story that is both sensationally suspenseful and richly satisfying in the artistry of its sentences and the depth and seriousness of its themes."—Ed Tarkington and Chapter16.org, Nashville Scene

"Emma Donoghue's characters seem thoroughly unique and alive."—Tobias Carroll, Time Out New York

"Illuminating.... [and] affecting..."—Eileen Weiner, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"The characters in Emma Donoghue's solid collection ASTRAY are on the move and similarly are sure to move readers."—Natalie Danford, American Way

"A strong collection.... Donoghue is first rate.... Real people can't go backward, but writers can, and Donoghue does so with great success."—Susan Balée, The Hudson Review

"The author of Room displays her mastery at inventing the speech of the most unlikely characters in this story collection.... How do people sound? That's one of the primary concerns of a writer. Get that right, and everything follows. Donoghue gets it right, as anyone who's read Room would know.... Donoghue reads like she takes a dry eraser and deletes chunks of letters and words-there's something constantly missing, and parts of the world are a mystery. But isn't that how we think to ourselves, as Joyce demonstrated, skipping over the river of thoughts and refusing to bother explaining the obvious or the visual? With such ingenuity, Donoghue achieves the effect of creating magic and wonder in the real world. To follow Donoghue into the unknown is one of the most pleasurable experiences I can think of."—Jimmy So, The Daily Beast

"Wildly informative and engaging.... Donoghue...throws the windows of the world open in fourteen stories of wanderlust, exploration, and possibilities promised by new and unknown lands.... By giving us true stories of wanderers and vagabonds in search of broader vistas, Donoghue has given narrative weight to both the journey and the destination. And in offering up history newly made into stories, Donoghue makes the journey of literary reinvention into its own reward."—Jessica Freeman-Slade, The Millions

"In...ASTRAY...imagination becomes possibility.... Moving through the centuries with her short stories, Donoghue turns everyday situations and period-piece slice-of-life situations into something of which O. Henry and Paul Harvey would be proud. Indeed, some of these tales start with a little sleight of word, poking our emotions in one way, then slowly twisting them into another direction before giving us the real story. You never know where these tales will end, and that's a good thing."—Terri Schlichenmeyer, Washington Blade

"A marvel of imagination, in which Donoghue utilizes items she's found over the years...to create unforgettable stories about change..."—Nina Sankovitch, The Huffington Post

Library Journal
A woman in 1901 New York who discovers that her reputed father was actually a female in disguise. Two aging sculptors in 1968 Ontario, women before their time, reliving their glory days. A brother in 1854 London convincing the sister who's sold her body to support him to sell her story instead so that they can emigrate. A horrific instance of rape during the American Revolution. A mistress in 1864 Texas conniving to run away with her slave. These are among the stories in the new collection from Man Booker finalist Donoghue (Room), each inspired by a news account or letter and each a little gem. Donoghue's characters face struggle or loss with determined grace; their situations are inherently dramatic, but the writing is smartly underplayed, refusing to hit hysterical high notes. What's equally intriguing is that each story concludes with the account that inspired it, which lets readers see the leap from fact to fiction. VERDICT Working in a different vein from the wrenching Room, Donoghue has created masterly pieces that show what short fiction can do. Not just for devotees of the form. [See Prepub Alert, 4/12/12.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
Fourteen tales of people cut loose from their roots--voluntarily or not. It's characteristic of the restless Donoghue to follow up a terrifying contemporary thriller and international best-seller (Room, 2010, etc.) with a collection of historical fiction. Past and present have held equal sway over her imagination in previous work, and three story collections have showcased her abundant gifts as aptly as her seven novels. This book demonstrates once again that there's little she can't do well; indeed, the afterword is as moving as the stories. Donoghue offers her own biography--Irish-born, Cambridge-educated, longtime resident in Canada--to explain her fascination with other wanderers trying to invent new lives for themselves. She can empathize with a Victorian Londoner forced into prostitution ("Onward") as well as with a buccaneering cheat who fraudulently obtains her husband's fortune and skips out of 18th-century New York ("The Widow's Cruse"). The gruff friendship-with-benefits of two gold prospectors in the Yukon ("Snowblind") is portrayed as tenderly as the marriage of two refugees from the Irish potato famine, thwarted of their reunion in Canada ("Counting the Days"). The collection's most wrenching tale, "The Gift," achieves the remarkable feat of bringing alive both the agony of a woman driven by poverty to give up her baby and the quiet dignity of the girl's adoptive father--in an exchange of letters, no less. Donoghue views her characters with determined generosity, even when their behavior is reprehensible: The first-person narratives of a vengeful Puritan settler in Cape Cod ("The Lost Seed") and a thoughtless white girl on a Louisiana plantation ("Vanitas") trace complicated motives and a desperation for love of which the protagonists may not even be aware. The short story can be a precious, self-enclosed form, but in Donoghue's bold hands, it crosses continents and centuries to claim kinship with many kinds of people. Another exciting change of pace from the protean Donoghue.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316206266
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 10/30/2012
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 210,583
  • File size: 525 KB

Meet the Author

Emma Donoghue
Born in Dublin in 1969, Emma Donoghue is an Irish emigrant twice over: she spent eight years in Cambridge, England, doing a PhD in eighteenth-century literature before moving to London, Ontario, where she lives with her partner and their two children. She also migrates between genres, writing literary history, biography, and stage and radio plays, as well as fairy tales and short stories. She is best known for her novels, which range from the historical (Slammerkin, Life Mask, The Sealed Letter) to the contemporary (Stir-Fry, Hood, Landing). Her international bestseller Room was a New York Times Best Book of 2010 and a finalist for the Man Booker, Commonwealth, and Orange Prizes. "The Hunt" (from Astray) has been short-listed for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award, the world's most valuable short story prize.

Biography

Emma Donoghue is an award-winning Irish writer who lives in Canada. At 34, she has published six books of fiction, two works of literary history, two anthologies, and two plays.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, on 24 October 1969, Emma is the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue. She attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 she earned a first-class honours B.A. in English and French from University College Dublin, and in 1997 a Ph.D. (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of Cambridge. Since the age of 23, Donoghue has earned her living as a full-time writer. After years of commuting between England, Ireland, and Canada, in 1998 she settled in London, Ontario, where she lives with her lover and their son.

Biography courtesy of the author's official web site.

Good To Know

Some outtakes from our interview with Donoghue

"The youngest of eight children, I would never have been conceived if a papal bull hadn't guilt-tripped my poor mother into flushing her pills down the toilet.

"The nearest I've ever got to 'honest toil' was a chambermaiding job in Wildwood, New Jersey, at the age of 18. I got fired for my 'low bathroom standards.' "

"My lover and I have a one-year-old son called Finn, whose favorite thing is to rip books out of my hands and eat them.

"I am clumsy, a late and nervous driver, and despise all sports except a little gentle dancing or yoga.

"I have never been depressed or thrown a plate, which I attribute to the cathartic effects of writing books about people whose lives are more grueling than mine.

"I am completely unobservant and couldn't tell you how many windows there are in our living room.

"I would be miserable in beige; I mostly wear red, purple, and black.

"The way to my heart is through Belgian milk chocolate.

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    1. Hometown:
      London, England and Ontario, Canada
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 24, 1969
    2. Place of Birth:
      Dublin, Ireland
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English and French, University College Dublin, 1990; Ph.D. in English, University of Cambridge, 1998
    2. Website:

Interviews & Essays

Special message from Emma Donoghue:

Some of my longtime fans were startled when I went from publishing historical novels to ROOM, with its highly contemporary storyline of a child growing up with his kidnapped mother in a locked room. But to me, there seemed a natural link. The premise of ROOM was a way of turning what couldn't possibly be more ordinary (kid games, dinners and bedtimes) deeply strange, and I'm still touched by regular emails from readers who've found that the novel makes them see the stuff of their own lives - especially the daily heroism of parenthood - in a new light. Historical fiction, at its best, does the same thing: it finds stories of ordinary human life in distant settings that don't just add 'local colour' to the stories but make you see these passions and struggles in a strong new light. What draws me back to the past, over and over, is its combination of the universal and the deeply strange; one minute you're feeling that the narrator of a story set in the 1700s is more or less like you, but the next minute, you're startled by the fact that their mindset (on, say, marriage or war) is a world away from yours. Something else that makes the past fertile ground for a writer is that the stakes are high: before the twentieth century, decisions were often literally life-or-death. My new collection, ASTRAY, is all about travel - not tourism, but life-or-death journeys. In my mind's eye all the different characters (from a Puritan of the 1600s, to a runaway slave in the Civll War, to a toddler adopted out West in the 1890s) file past me with the weary but strong-hearted look of migrants in any era: nothing, but nothing, is going to get between them and a better life. It's the American dream, and a timeless human dream; that by changing place you can change everything, including who you are. Some of the research I did for ROOM was into how refugees cope with transitions like the one Jack has to go through when he steps into the long-awaited Outside, and that's the theme that runs through ASTRAY too: the extraordinary challenge of adaptation to a new world.
Thanks for being adventurous enough to come with me on my journeys -Emma Donoghue

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • 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

    3 out of 4 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

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    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

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    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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    Posted December 29, 2012

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    0 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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