Drowned Boy: Stories

Drowned Boy: Stories

4.3 3
by Jerry Gabriel
     
 

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"These [stories] are rust-belt blues, then, a vision of and lament for a past time and a swiftly changing place. They're not showy—the language is plain, the tragedy muted, the comedy low-key and wry—but they stick in the mind. Ray Carver would recognize these characters and situations, as would poet Philip Levine. I like to think that they would share my

Overview

"These [stories] are rust-belt blues, then, a vision of and lament for a past time and a swiftly changing place. They're not showy—the language is plain, the tragedy muted, the comedy low-key and wry—but they stick in the mind. Ray Carver would recognize these characters and situations, as would poet Philip Levine. I like to think that they would share my appreciation for this fine first book, built slowly and carefully over some years, and worth the wait."—Andrea Barrett

Jerry Gabriel delivers an unsentimental portrait of rural America in Drowned Boy, a collection of linked stories that reveals a world of brutality, beauty, and danger in the forgotten landscape of small-town basketball tournaments and family reunions. In "Boys Industrial School," two brothers track an escaped juvenile convict, while in the titular novella, a young man and woman embark on a haphazard journey to find meaning in the death of a high-school classmate. These stories probe the fraught cusp of adulthood, the frustrations of escape and difference, and the emotional territory of disappointment––set in the hardscrabble borderlands where Appalachia meets the Midwest.

Jerry Gabriel studied at Ohio State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has worked as a science writer and taught writing at a number of colleges and universities, including, from 2001 to 2008, Cornell University's Engineering Communications Program. Currently, he is a visiting assistant professor of English at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In Gabriel’s first volume of fiction, the bare and austere landscape is reflected in the tightly written, almost stripped, prose.”
—Ann H. Fisher, Library Journal

“Eight linked stories, set among boys and men in southern Ohio, have the masculine virtues of honest craft and plain, carefully chosen language. The author, who grew up in rural Ohio, put years into writing that sticks with the reader much longer than showier fiction.”
—Karen R. Long, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“In prose as spare and enchanting as the town’s landscape, Gabriel paints a beautiful and sobering portrait of Middle Americans trapped in a world of snow, ice, and inevitability.”
—Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist

“The prose is spare, but hardly minimalistic. . . . if there are slower moments in the earlier stories, they do echo beautifully, not unlike our own memories.”
—James Tate Hill, Bookslut

“Sublime and stark, the stories in Drowned Boy showcase Jerry Gabriel’s lean diction, crisp characterization, and exquisite storytelling. Readers eager to experience the very best in contemporary short stories need go no farther than this perfect collection.”
—Tim Davis, ForeWord Reviews

“Gabriel connects all of these stories through location, anchoring them to the lone highway or the river that run through Moraine, Ohio. . . . It’s a nuanced and complicated examination of the way grief is contagious, sparking dark emotions in people who initially are barely affected.”
—Jonathan Messinger, TimeOut Chicago

“With the publication of Drowned Boy, his first book of fiction, Jerry Gabriel has produced a devestating vision of the post-industrial experience in the American Midwest. Set in Moraine, Ohio, this powerful collection of stories is reminiscent in both its symmetry and spirit of Sherwood Anderson’s classic, Winesburg, Ohio.”
—Jesse Freedman, Rain Taxi Review of Books

“Committed to the experience of youth in a land “dark from the rain,” Drowned Boy proceeds with unyielding candor, slowly revealing the poverty of post-industrial Ohio. By the end of the this book, I was defenseless against Gabriel’s haunting, penetrating prose and prepared to advocate on behalf of his wounded, often desperate characters.”
The Literary Review

“Ultimately, the novella demonstrates Gabriel’s ease with writing a longer story. ‘‘Drowned Boy’’ might make some readers wish that Gabriel had written a novel. However, the collection as a whole refuses tidy conclusions and long-term relationships; it reveals people in isolation with only brief moments of startling connection.”
—Rachel Bara, Prairie Schooner

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
In Moraine, Ohio, a single highway is the only link to the outside world. The names of its streets are unadorned: Market, Mulberry, and Main. Home to a crumbling high school, a few fast-food places, and a sluggish river that cleverly reversed direction, Moraine is a postindustrial speck in southern Ohio bordered by Appalachia and West Virginia, an isolated community where change comes slowly, if at all.

In Gabriel’s evocative collection, this sense of place is defining and connects each of the characters’ lives – parents, children, teachers, coaches, and the loners – those who somehow end up in Moraine rather than somewhere else. While a few are young enough to remember where another choice might have led, most are too dug in to care: a teenager who witnesses a drowning, a young man who abandons a once passionate love, children who crossed paths with an escaped convict.

Winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction (adjudicated by National Book Award winner Andrea Barrett), Gabriel’s debut is remarkably wise and affecting – a lament for childhoods long gone and the innocence and hope that’s left behind. Simply told and gracefully written, Gabriel’s stories coil around in your head – lingering, suggesting, probing – their heartfelt effect built word by word and line by line.

Publishers Weekly
In this low-key, lusterless debut collection, Gabriel follows two brothers growing up while testing the boundaries of authority in rural Ohio. Switching among different viewpoints in quasi-chronological order, Gabriel begins with Donnie and Nate Holland, ages 12 and eight, respectively, tracking down a runaway from the nearby delinquent boys' institution after their father is hospitalized. Instead of turning in the runaway for the reward, however, Donnie ends up disappearing with him for two days. In subsequent stories, the boys reach adolescence and young adulthood, Donnie continuing to run against the grain, joining the army and eloping; Nate, meanwhile, remains in town and works at the A&P, but still takes cues from his beloved big brother. Gabriel's writing is frustratingly bland, his character development minimal and his stories all too brief; in the longest tale, “Drowned Boy,” Nate and a girl meet at a wake, but take off on separate, meandering car trips, suspending the resolution in midair. Gabriel's listless plotting leaves readers wanting more of these sympathetic characters. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Small-town, economically depressed Moraine, OH, serves as background for these connected stories centering on the awkward coming-of-age of Nate Holland and his relationship with his older brother, Donnie. In Gabriel's first volume of fiction, the bare and austere landscape is reflected in the tightly written, almost stripped, prose. In "Boys Industrial School," the brothers track a boy who has escaped through the snow from the local reform school, hoping for a reward if they turn him in to authorities. Instead, Donnie ends up running off and helping the escapee get away. In the title story, a series of episodes follows Nate and another student who try to make sense of a classmate's death by drowning. In the final story, "Reagan's Army in Retreat," Nate tracks Donnie to their childhood home, only to discover he had left for Texas six months earlier. VERDICT Despite a bleak tone, Gabriel nicely crystallizes a sense of place and ably develops the emotional life of the main characters. For readers of literary fiction.—Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781932511789
Publisher:
Sarabande Books
Publication date:
01/01/2010
Series:
Mary Mccarthy Prize in Short Fiction Series
Pages:
176
Sales rank:
798,910
Product dimensions:
6.32(w) x 9.04(h) x 0.45(d)

Meet the Author

Jerry Gabriel studied at Ohio State, Northern Arizona University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He has worked as a science writer and taught writing at a number of universities, including, from 2001-2008, as a lecturer in Cornell University's Engineering Communications Program. Starting in the fall 2008, he will be a visiting assistant professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

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Drowned Boy: Stories 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not usually drawn to collections of short stories, but this book caught my attention on the shelf and the title made me take a second look. I needed something to keep in the car in case I had to wait somewhere. However, once I started to read it I couldn't put it down. This collection of short stories that all connect is so well written. The characters were so real and their tales so moving. I felt that I got to really know the characters and understand what they were experiencing. I was sorry when I reached the last page. This is a wonderful collection of short stories and I am sure I will read it again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago