Famous Fathers and Other Stories

Overview

A gracefully disconcerting collection of stories by the winner of the 2005 Narrative Prize.

Wavering between fidelity and freedom, the women in this sparkling debut collection deal with emotional damage and unhealed heartbreak by plunging into unusual, often bizarre, relationships.

In Pia Z. Ehrhardt’s stories, adultery and impropriety become disquietingly mundane. Mothers expect daughters to be complicit in their love affairs, children seek ...

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Famous Fathers and Other Stories

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Overview

A gracefully disconcerting collection of stories by the winner of the 2005 Narrative Prize.

Wavering between fidelity and freedom, the women in this sparkling debut collection deal with emotional damage and unhealed heartbreak by plunging into unusual, often bizarre, relationships.

In Pia Z. Ehrhardt’s stories, adultery and impropriety become disquietingly mundane. Mothers expect daughters to be complicit in their love affairs, children seek shelter in families that aren’t their own, fathers court their daughters, a couple enters into a marriage that lasts thirty days a year, and a young girl takes to the road with the simple guy who bags groceries at Piggly Wiggly while her mother imagines her safely at school. 

Beautifully restrained and shot through with tenderness, Famous Fathers and Other Stories establishes Ehrhardt as both a leading practitioner of the short story and an empathetic interpreter of the lives of wounded people who–instead of asking for what they want–take what is offered.

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Editorial Reviews

S. Kirk Walsh
The collection's most successful story, "The Longest Part of the Day," moves between the point of view of 15-year-old Jilly, who goes missing when she takes a ride with Jimmy, the grocery bagger from Piggly Wiggly, and her mother, who is having an affair with her ex-husband's brother. Ms. Ehrhardt deftly captures the repercussions of a narcissistic mother caught in the undertow of her own desires, and the unexpected tenderness that surfaces between Jimmy and Jilly. It's quite amazing what Ms. Ehrhardt accomplishes in a mere 24 pages. It is, in short, a great story.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596922129
  • Publisher: MacAdam/Cage Publishing, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/28/2007
  • Pages: 166
  • Product dimensions: 5.79 (w) x 8.19 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Pia Z. Ehrhardt lives in New Orleans with her husband and son. Her stories have been widely published in magazines including McSweeney’s Quarterly, the Mississippi Review, and Narrative Magazine, and anthologized in A Cast of Characters and Other Stories and the 2006 Norton Anthology Sudden Fiction: Short-Shorts from America and Beyond. She is the recipient of the 2005 Narrative Prize. 
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Read an Excerpt

I’m at Mike’s office and it’s Friday, late in the afternoon, so the sun is slipping down. The view up here is great, there are no clouds, no pastels–all I see is a bright yellow ball. My office has forwarded a call from my sister Gin because I told them I’d be at Mike’s, working on my taxes, and I’m on his desk phone. The mouthpiece smells like old cigar. Mike’s on the thirty-second floor of One Shell Square. He’s behind his desk, tilted back in his chair, feet up, and in the plate glass window behind him I can see the Superdome. I’ve just uncorked the bottle of wine I brought up in my purse, and I’m wiping out two stained coffee mugs.

Gin asks if I can talk and I say, “Sure, I’m at Mike’s.” She groans. “What’s up?” I say. I print SISTER on a yellow Post-it note and stick it below the V of my sweater, and Mike smiles and straightens the papers on his desk. He likes the top of it clean. Gin’s talking fast. She says she’s been following our father around Laurel, Maryland, and something strange is going on. Gin’s in military intelligence, stationed in Annapolis, and no one in the family is sure what she does except that she interprets covert photos from hostile countries. Our parents live together in New Orleans, but our father’s up there in Maryland on a business trip, just a few miles from Gin and her husband, Gerry.

Gin says, “Dad’s been here almost a week and hasn’t been by. I went to the Marriott where he usually stays, but he’s not registered.”

“You’re worried?” I hear her pop open the top on a can.

She says, “Dad’s in a green Taurus, camel interior.”

I wedge the phone between my chin and shoulder and pour red wine into the mugs. “Emma Peel, you are.”

“The car gets returned Tuesday; prepaid the gas.”

Mike’s phone cord is twisted and I drop the receiver for a second and let the tangle spin out. I can hear her down there, impatient, asking if I’m listening. “Dr. Pepper in the drink holder?” I say, when I get back on.

“Pay attention, Renny,” she says.

“I’m listening,” I say. Mike is suddenly touching my neck and I lean back so he’ll kiss my hair.

Gin and Gerry have been married for ten years and have a little girl. I’m not married anymore, but Mike is, and there are pictures of his family on the console behind him. I walk over with the phone, pick up the frames and look more closely. Everyone’s cute. There’s a ski trip, the son on a dock in an orange life jacket, Mike sitting on a wall in some crumbly golden-lit Spanish town. He turns in his chair and rubs his hand on my calf, along my black fishnets and up under the edge of my skirt, tries to push me from there and I brush his hand away.

“I traced Dad’s car,” she says, “by satellite, and found it in Claire’s driveway.”

“Claire?” I say. Claire is an ex-student of our father’s. He’s a music professor at the University of New Orleans, and she’s a singer, a mezzo-soprano, from Shreveport, but now she’s in graduate school at the University of Maryland, where our parents have old friends in the department. Our father wrote letters, helped her get the scholarship.

“What do you think?” Gin says.

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