Read This and Tell Me What It Says: Stories


In her first full-length story collection, author A. Manette Ansay explores the rural Midwest landscape and the people who inhabit it: ordinary folk with extraordinary inner lives, struggling to make sense of the isolated, sometimes painful, and often intensely religious worlds in which they live. Her are 15 haunting and exquisitely written tales that offer a rare and unforgettable glimpse into the complexities of being human and being alive.

Read ...
See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (45) from $1.99   
  • New (3) from $1.99   
  • Used (42) from $1.99   
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any coupons and promotions
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

Brand new. Only minor shelf wear from storage - nothing major. Remainder mark - black line - on bottom edge of pages. Buy with confidence - every order ships with delivery ... confirmation tracking number. Fast shipping from our non-smoking home. 2009BN020 Read more Show Less

Ships from: Stephenville, TX

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2015

Feedback rating:


Condition: New

Ships from: North Dartmouth, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:


Condition: New

Ships from: Chicago, IL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Sort by
Sending request ...


In her first full-length story collection, author A. Manette Ansay explores the rural Midwest landscape and the people who inhabit it: ordinary folk with extraordinary inner lives, struggling to make sense of the isolated, sometimes painful, and often intensely religious worlds in which they live. Her are 15 haunting and exquisitely written tales that offer a rare and unforgettable glimpse into the complexities of being human and being alive.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Holly's Field, Wis., the setting for Ansay's well-received debut novel, Vinegar Hill, again serves as background for many of the 15 precisely crafted, haunting stories in her first collection. The people in this town in the heartland of America try to make do with their lots in life, but many of them are already alienated or isolated and know that things will never get any better. In "Ohio,'' 14-year-old Stuart travels to Massachusetts to visit the father who left the family and the church where he had been a pastor. Stuart's father lives with a woman he is not married to and has a daughter named Mars. Although Stuart's mission is to win his father's heart back to Christ, by the end of his trip it is he who has had his eyes opened, who says he has the "sense you've crossed over to some distant place and stayed just a moment too long, so that return is no longer a possibility.'' The adults in this harsh Midwestern landscape deal with poverty, sickness, aging and the desire to transcend their daily lives. Geraldine's husband, in "You or Me or Anything,'' drives off into the snow one day and calls from different points along his meandering route, to tell her that he's not coming back, she should be sure to let the dog in at night, there's a blizzard in Minnesota. The stressed-out 15-year-old narrator of the title story, which won the 1992 Nelson Algren Prize, has become a compulsive thief because it helps her mind to grow "absolutely still, that stillness you get when you walk into a church and know that you are safe there.'' Pressured by her family's expectations of academic success, she recklessly gambles with her future, and her life. All of Ansay's characters have a dignity earned by coping with their existence; they elicit compassion from the reader, but not pity, because they are strong and will come through. Stubborn and resourceful, they endow her fictional town with presence and credibility.
Library Journal
Poignant, mostly realistic short stories that peel into family lives in a fictional Wisconsin town make up this collection by the author of Vinegar Hill LJ 8/94. In "Smoke," a widow haunted by her dead husband is protected from him by her cats, who are finally taken away by a well-meaning neighbor. In the title story, a hyperactive father who never learned to read well issues the title's command to his teenage daughter when the mail comes. The daughter is the family's hope; her ambitious mother applies to 50 colleges on her behalf. When she is finally accepted into a music school with a teacher's help, the family's happiness is short-lived as they learn of her brother's arrest. Sad, literary tales with a Midwestern sensibility; for larger general collections.-Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
Jonis Agee
A. Manette Ansay's stories maps the distances between ourselves and other worlds. In so doing, they remind of how necessary our dreams and desires are to the fragile lives we piece together, and how, as much as anything, it is the act of creating and living that brings joy and redemption.
New York Times Book Review
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380730773
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/1998
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.03 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

A. Manette Ansay

A. Manette Ansay is the author of eight books, including Vinegar Hill, Midnight Champagne (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Blue Water. She has received the Pushcart Prize, two Great Lakes Book Awards, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches in the MFA writing program at the University of Miami.


A. Manette Ansay's first novel, Vinegar Hill, established the writer as a novelist who could tell a difficult story with great grace. Born in Michigan in 1964 and raised in Port Washington, Wisconsin among a huge Roman Catholic extended family, Ansay infuses her fiction with the reality of Midwestern farm life, the constraints of Roman Catholicism, and the toll the combination can take on women and men alike.

Philosophical and cerebral, with a gift for identifying the telling domestic detail and conveying it in a fresh way, Ansay incorporates the rhythm of rural Midwestern life -- the polka dance at a wedding reception, the bowling alley, community suppers, gossip, passion, and betrayal -- into novels that illuminate the most difficult aspects of maintaining any close relationship, whether it be familial or not. In Vinegar Hill, Ansay examines the forces that hold a Catholic woman in the 1970s hostage to her emotionally abusive marriage. In Midnight Champagne, set at a wedding, she focuses her lens on the institution of marriage itself; the story is told through the shifting points of view of the couples who attend the event.

Readers and critics alike have testified to her talents: The New Yorker said of Vinegar Hill, "This world is lit by the measured beauty of her prose, and the final line is worth the pain it takes to get there." The novel was selected for Oprah's Book Club in 1999; Ansay's following book, Midnight Champagne, was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

Like Flannery O'Connor, whom Ansay cites as an influence, Ansay is concerned with moments of grace in which the truth suddenly manifests itself with life-changing intensity. In the wrong hands, her material could be the stuff of soap operas. But Ansay strives for emotional complexity rather than mere bathos, and addresses both suffering and joy with intelligence and sensitivity.

Ansay's life has been as complex and fascinating as the dramas that unfold in her novels. A gifted pianist as a child, she studied at the University of Wisconsin while still a high school student. Later, while a student at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, she was afflicted by a disease that devastated her neurological system, cutting short her dreams of becoming a concert pianist, and leaving her confined for years to a wheelchair. She had never written fiction before, but turned her disciplined ear and mind to writing, promising herself to write two hours a day, three days a week, the same sort of disciplined schedule she had imposed on herself as a student musician.

Limbo, Ansay's story of her struggle with illness, is as evocatively written as her novels. Ansay never descends into sentimentality, but instead confronts her medical problems – and the limitations they impose – unflinchingly, describing both the indignities that disabled people face daily, as well as how her own illness has become a personal test of faith.

Good To Know

Ansay was still looking for the appropriate title for her first novel when, on the way to a meeting with her MFA advisor near Cornell University, Ansay spotted a street sign with the answer. "I happened to glance up and see a street sign that said "Vinegar Hill." It was perfect," Ansay writes on her web site. "I had never turned onto that street before, and I made a point never to do so afterwards. I wanted it to belong solely to my characters. And it does."

One scene in Midnight Champagne, the air-hockey table encounter, was written for a friend of Ansay's. She writes, "A friend of mine had been musing about sex and literature, and she said, 'Why is it that we so seldom read about the kind of sex we want to be having?' I said, 'What kind of sex is that?' She said, 'Fun sex.' I said, 'I'm writing a scene just for you."'

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Port Washington, Wisconsin; now lives in New York City
    1. Date of Birth:
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lapeer, Michigan
    1. Education:
      MFA, Cornell University, 1991

Read an Excerpt

At night, my brother heard wolves in the corn. There were no wolves left in southeastern Wisconsin, but Alex had seen their yellow-slit eyes, their long teeth brighter than moonlight. He listened to them mutter in the language of wolves on those nights when he crouched by my window, shivering in his BvD's, staring out at the cornfield that began ten feet from the house. Occasionally, we'd see the glowing eyes of a deer or raccoon -striped or one of the tiger cats that lived, half wild, in the barn. Once we saw a fox, brief as a breath of smoke. But the wolves stayed slyly hidden, slipping between the stalks only when the vnnd blew, rustling the leaves with their tails."Wolves," Alex told me, "are smarter than most people. They are smarter than astronauts and doctors. They live in cities built deep under die ground."We were sitting in the apple tree we'd claimed for our own by carving our initials near the top. It was June, and most of the tree was still in blossom; if I squinted, the petals blurred and made the leaves look like they were covered in snow. But Alex diddt seem to notice the blossoms, or the bees hanging above our heads, or die sound the bees made which rose and fell like the sound of someone breathing."The mind of a wolf is like a maze," he said. "No human being can figure out exactly how it works.""What about scientists?" I said."When the moon is full," Alex said, ignoring me, "wolves speak in a language no one else can understand.'His pale hair reached to his shoulder blades; the soles of his feet, dangling near my head, were stained the color of grass. I listened to him as politely as I could, but I preferred my own thoughts to my brother's, and I wanted to go back tothe house and lie on my bed, as I often did for hours, letting the breeze from the open windows ruffle over me. My bedroom had once been my mother's, and it still had the same pink walls and gray trim, the lacy white curtains, the bed frame carved with flowers that my grandfather had finished just one day before he died. Alex's room faced the highway where he claimed the wolves were afraid to go; he bribed me with candy and cap pistols and robin's eggs, but I wouldn't trade rooms because I loved to lie in bed and imagine my mother as a young girl. She'd been bright, I knew, and pretty- She liked to read, and filled sketchbooks with drawings of flowers and sunsets and trees. At night, I fell asleep imagining the sound of her voice, and in the morning, when I woke up, I could hear her talking quietly to my grandmother in their room. Sometimes Alex would still be under my window, wrapped in the bear's paw quilt he'd swiped from the foot of my bed, his pale hair glowing sunlight. After breakfast, after chores, we walked down to the orchard and climbed into our tree, looking out across the fruit trees and the surrounding fields of corn, past the house and the barn and the milkhouse forming a crescent around the courtyard, down the dirt mad which led to the highway, searching for the subtle signs a careless wolf might leave behind. We had moved in with my grandmother at the beginning of the summer, after my father announced he was hitching west to Caffor- nia with a woman named Marge. He brought her to our house just before they left: my mother served coffee while Alex and I sat on the couch, dressed in Sunday clothes, snitching candy rais table. Marge had wrinkly hair and I laugh that echoed in our ears like a slap. She called us kiddos and my mother dear. She and my father sat side by side on the padded folding chairs my mother brought out for company. "I want all of you to get along," my father said. He kept his hand on Marge's arm as if he thought she might jump up at any moment. He looked unfamiliar, and I stared at him until my mother tapped my knee with her finger, her signal that I shouldn't be rude. She wore a white dress printed with yellow and pink flowers; her hair was braided neatly and tied with a pink ribbon. She looked fresh and bright as a doll, with her pretty dress and tiny doll's feet, and watching her, I felt proud. But when she poured coffee into my father's cup, her hand shook, and coffee spilled down the front of her dress."Oh, I'm so sorry," she said to no one in particular."I always do things like that," Marge said, and she laughed her ringing laugh. She wore jeans and a man's flannel shirt, untucked. Her hair was cut short; practical hair. "If you use cold water right away it won't stain.""I'm so embarrassed," my mother said. She did not leave to wash it out with cold water. Instead, she scrubbed at the brown streak with her napkin. By the time my father and Marge stood up to go, it had faded almost gold. My father kissed me, suddenly, on the forehead. The kiss sounded like stepping in something wet. I wiped it away and my father laughed."These kids are too old for kissing" he said. Then he shook Alex's hand. From the way Alex bit his lip I could tell my father had squeezed too hard."We'll be sure and write you kiddos soon," Marge said.And, after we'd moved to my grandmother's, we did get one in a strange, spiky hand: Dear Alex and Susan, Today we saw mountains bigger than anything you can imagine. Love, your dad and Marge.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)