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Death Is Not an Option

Death Is Not an Option

3.0 4
by Suzanne Rivecca

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A bold, dazzling debut collection about girls and women in a world where sexuality and self-delusion collide.


A bold, dazzling debut collection about girls and women in a world where sexuality and self-delusion collide.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The female protagonists in Rivecca’s debut collection have a lot in common, so much so that they at times feel like the same person, despite (slight) variations in context. They are a mostly Midwestern bunch, sassy, bookish, and Catholic (or lapsed Catholic), but it’s their ambivalent relationships to victimhood that provide the collection with its real material: some refuse to be pitied, while others dabble in self-victimization for selfish purposes. In the title story, Emma bids farewell to her Sacred Heart classmates, including the popular Claire, who has spent most of their “friendship” trying to publicly humiliate Emma. In “Yours Will Do Nicely,” 21-year-old Katrina tries to maintain a relationship with a one-night stand by writing a fanciful letter to the boy she’s effortlessly enchanted. “Very Special Victims” introduces Kath, who can’t seem to convince those around her that her existence shouldn’t be defined by the fact that she was molested as a child. Rivecca’s a competent writer and obviously adept at mining the experiences of a certain kind of character, but the stories’ provocations aren’t delivered upon; instead, they feel repetitive and self-satisfied. (July)
Library Journal
This debut collection examines the revelation of truths that Rivecca's characters hide from themselves and from others. In the title story, a teenager finds herself conflicted as she approaches graduation, welcoming the future but realizing she is terrified of the unknown. A college student attempts to court the affections of another while falling into familiar patterns of putting on guises. In a two-part story, a woman struggles with the consequences of the revelation of sexual abuse in her past and the disclosure of the event to others in the present. A memoirist confronts the unforeseen consequences of unwanted attention involved in revealing childhood deceptions in her book. A woman focuses on the near death of her father when she was a child and contemplates her aversion to him in the past. An elementary school teacher doesn't trust the answers given to her when she questions why one of her students exhibits frequent injuries. VERDICT Rivecca, who was featured in Best New American Voices 2009, keeps the reader engrossed as she creates anticipation in revealing the inner lives of her intriguing characters. The controversial subject matter woven into the narratives will appeal to fans of Mary Gaitskill. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/10.]—Cristella Bond, Anderson P.L., IN
Kirkus Reviews
Seven nervy stories about damage and alienation mark a fine if largely downbeat debut. Tears and harm, actual or threatened, recur repeatedly in Rivecca's collection, which introduces young women-at school, at work-identifiable by their intensity, vulnerability and sense of otherness. The title story features Catholic high-school girl Emma, a "thoughtful outcast," smart and self-conscious, in a narrative which includes some provocative sexual material. In "Yours Will Do Nicely," Katrina is at college, dealing badly with sex and her own neediness. She may also be the Kath of the two-part "Very Special Victims," which records her sexual abuse by an uncle and its repercussions in adult life. Possibly the strongest story, it showcases Rivecca's talent for observation. A theme of creepy, threatening sexuality continues in "Look, Ma, I'm Breathing," while "Consummation," addressed to the doctor who saved a father's life, unsparingly anatomizes love/hate feelings toward a parent. The closer, "None of the Above," is a near-comical breath of fresh air, displacing suspected family abuse with something far wilder. Narrowness of range and a sense of suffocation are alleviated by pinpoint phrasing and bright insight.
Sara Ivry
The women in Suzanne Rivecca's first story collection…are looking for salvation, though not the kind that involves Jesus. You'd be forgiven for making that assumption, considering that so many of these antiheroines are the products of Catholic schooling. But in fact, most of Rivecca's ruthlessly frank and lonely characters have left religion, and the saving they seek in this modest, engaging and disquieting collection is from the plague of isolation—or it is, anyway, when they’re not themselves trying to be the rescuers, saving others from any number of scourges.
—The New York Times
“Recalls early Gaitskill in its stark depiction of girls who lost their innocence long before they knew it was theirs to lose.”
Emily Mitchell
“I was astonished and transported by the stories in this collection which are simultaneously hilariously funny and sharply, sometimes painfully, perceptive. I stayed up reading them late into the night because I did not want to put them down and I thought about them for a long time after I finished the last one. I think about them still.”
Melanie Rae Thon
“With exquisite patience and piercing insight, Suzanne Rivecca illuminates the dangerous dance between victims and saviors. Death Is Not an Option delivers us to the edge of grief, that precarious place where the moral compass spins—where codes of love and law and religion fail. Mercy here depends on a tiger's sublime grace, our capacity to resist deeper harm, and the right of every broken being to remain silent.”
Charles Baxter
“The intensity of thought and feeling in Suzanne Rivecca's stories is remarkable.... The stories are brilliant, funny, and scary. This book is a major achievement.”
Lorrie Moore
“Suzanne Rivecca is a wonderfully lively and fearless new writer. I greatly admired the stories in Death Is Not an Option.”
“[Rivecca’s] talent allows her to impressively flex the muscle of fiction, making us keep our attention where it belongs—on these bracing stories promising a fine career.”
“Refreshing tales, laced with bitter humor and ’90s pop- culture references.”
Pam Houston - More
“These sizzling coming-of-age stories are served on a plate of shattered glass, with a side of lacerating humor. Rivecca’s audacious narrators—all ask the question, What am I doing here? The answers in this gutsy, heart- rattling debut collection are deliciously complicated and always unexpected.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Ferociously intelligent. . . . Rivecca populates her stories with imperfect, acutely drawn characters, which is a rare pleasure, simply because her approximations are so believable.”

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Suzanne Rivecca’s fiction has appeared in Best New American Voices 2009, among other publications. A winner of the Pushcart Prize and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, she lives in San Francisco.

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Death Is Not an Option 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
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