Astray

Astray

4.0 12
by Emma Donoghue
     
 

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A trainer coaxes his beloved elephant onto a ship carrying him to a life of fame. A mother searches for her baby girl, sent away on a train headed west. A teenage soldier wrestles with his conscience far from home.

The fascinating characters who roam the pages of Emma Donoghue's stories have all gone astray. They are emigrants, runaways, drifters, gold miners and

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Overview

A trainer coaxes his beloved elephant onto a ship carrying him to a life of fame. A mother searches for her baby girl, sent away on a train headed west. A teenage soldier wrestles with his conscience far from home.

The fascinating characters who roam the pages of Emma Donoghue's stories have all gone astray. They are emigrants, runaways, drifters, gold miners and counterfeiters, attorneys and slaves. They cross countless borders. They travel for love or money, incognito or under duress.

The celebrated author of Room transports us from Puritan Massachusetts to Revolutionary-era New Jersey, from antebellum Louisiana to a highway in Toronto, lighting up four centuries of wanderings that have profound echoes in the present and offering us a moving meditation on restless times.

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
"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:
9780316224178
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
10/30/2012
Edition description:
Large Print
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.40(d)

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