In [these] 12 wide-ranging stories…Homes skillfully circles and tugs at the question of what it means to live in flawed, fragile, hungry human bodies…The possibility of profound beauty presses from one direction; the certainty of imperfection, of shame, presses from the other. Between these forces, the characters are hardened, sometimes into coal, sometimes into diamonds. But Homes…is interested in more than beauty or ugliness: She writes about the interaction between inner lives and outer lives and our attempts to be seen or to hide…
Days of Awe feels like the part of the day when the sun is about to go down and the light is brighter while the shadows are darker. Everything has a sharp edge, is strikingly beautiful and suddenly also a little menacing. As one character says, "In these times the only way to remain optimistic is to side with the darkness and then be pleasantly surprised."
The New York Times Book Review - Ramona Ausubel
Homes’s uneven collection of short fiction (following the novel May We Be Forgiven) searches for humor and wonder amidst the anxieties of contemporary America. In “Brother on Sunday,” a brother-in-law’s unwelcome visit shines light on the blemishes of a very surface-obsessed marriage. Totaling only five pages, “Whose Story Is It, and Why Is It Always on Her Mind?” follows a self-harmer who pushes thorns into the soles of her feet. Over the course of 50 pages, the exemplary title story details a long-coming tryst between two middle-aged writers, a war correspondent and a novelist. Two stories, the pleasantly listless “Hello Everybody” and the movingly tragic “She Got Away,” share characters and setting, though each trains its own unique lens onto the lives of young and old in Los Angeles. Strong as these selections may be, the collection suffers overall from the inclusion of the lackluster alongside the great, interesting experiments that never quite feel like finished products. Nowhere is this more evident than in “The National Cage Bird Show,” which attempts—and fails—to take on both military life and sexual assault by way of a chat room for parakeet owners. Still, Homes’s fans—as well as readers looking for sharp and funny short fiction—will find much to enjoy. (June)
Praise for “A.M. Homes skillfully circles and tugs at the question of what it means to live in flawed, fragile, hungry human bodies . . . DAYS OF AWE is sliced through with Homes’s dark humor . . . one wants to read passages of a Homes story aloud because they are so fine . . . DAYS OF AWE feels like the part of the day when the sun is about to go down and the light is brighter while the shadows are darker. Everything has a sharp edge, is strikingly beautiful and suddenly also a little menacing.”—Ramona Ausubel, Days of Awe: The New York Times Book Review “Exuberantly transgressive.”— O, the Oprah Magazine “[Homes] has shown a unique penchant for cracking open the dark heart of human nature — with irreverent wit, devastating empathy and haunting shocks . . . DAYS OF AWE [is] a memorable assortment of new tales about family, love, death, and an unqualified man who somehow stumbles into becoming a populist political candidate.” —Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon “Homes’s keen ear for speech—surreal as her characters’ conversations often are—lends itself to varying degrees of self-aware misunderstanding, highlighting the complexity of language and the challenges . . . The impossibility of knowing another person completely is one of life’s painful truths, and [this] collection remind us of that—but [it] also shows that there are, at least, tools available to help us try.”— Vanity Fair “Fascinating . . . I consumed these stories exactly like a spectator of a good fight or a neighbor peering through the hedge, and I felt sharply observed in turn. Homes, with her fierce sharp wit, reveals her characters’ deep flaws. No one gets away with anything and the spectacle is delightful.” —Molly Livingston, The Paris Review Daily"With dark humor and sharp dialogue, Homes plumbs the depths of everyday American anxieties through stories about unexpected situations." — Time “In the title story, a Holocaust survivor taps into a theme of the collection when he describes the way people hold the history of previous generations inside them. ‘We carry it with us, not just in our grandmother’s silver,’ he says, ‘but in our bodies, the cells of our hearts.’” — Wall Street Journal“Versatile and imaginative, Homes bring her literary daring and prowess . . . to short stories . . . In her third provocative story collection, she displays her command of the viciously realistic and the pointedly surreal, the comic and the tragic. A master of honed dialogue—play-like in their momentum, many of these tales have an Edward Albee aura—Homes is also potently visual and acknowledges artists who inspire her . . . [It] is the searing precision of her language and her profound and thorny concerns that infuse these unpredictable tales with their unnerving power . . . Virtuoso Homes, aligned with Grace Paley, Joy Williams, and Lydia Millet, is fierce, witty, defining, and compassionate. ”— Booklist, Starred Review “With her signature humor and compassion, A.M. Homes exposes the heart of an uneasy America in her new collection – exploring our attachments to each other through characters who aren’t quite who they hoped to become, though there is no one else they can be.” — Chicago Review of Books Praise for May We Be Forgiven: “An entertaining, old-fashioned American story about second chances...A.M. Homes is a writer I'll pretty much follow anywhere because she's indeed so smart, it's scary; yet she's not without heart...May We Be Forgiven [is] deeply imbued with the kind of It's A Wonderful Life-type belief in redemption that we Americans will always be suckers for, and rightly so.” —Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air Praise for The Mistress's Daughter: “A compelling, devastating, and furiously good book written with an honesty few of us would risk.” —Zadie Smith, bestselling author of Swing Time “Rich in humanity and humor ... Homes combines an unfussy candor with a deliciously droll, quirky wit ... her energy and urgency become infectious.” — USA Today Additional Praise for A.M. Homes: “I started reading A.M. Homes twenty years ago. Wild and funny, questioning and true, she is a writer to go travelling with on the journey called life.” —Jeanette Winterson, bestselling author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit “A.M. Homes has long been one of our most important and original writers of fiction. May We Be Forgiven is her most ambitious as well as her most accessible novel to date; sex and violence invade the routines of suburban domestic life in a way that reminded me of The World According to Garp, although in the end it's a thoroughly original work of imagination.” —Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City
A collection that examine the absurdities of modern life.In the title story of Homes' (May We Be Forgiven, 2012, etc.) latest collection, a love affair is sparked between former friends when they are reunited at a genocide conference. The strangeness of this serves to illuminate the complex depths of their emotional states. It also creates opportunities for dark humor. As the conference begins, the leader poses the big question: "Why do Genocide(S) continue to happen?" And then "He goes on to thank their sponsors." "A Prize for Every Player" carries on the theme of consumerism. It opens with a family competing "boys versus girls" in an elaborate version of Supermarket Sweep. After finding a human baby in an aisle, Tom—the father—launches into a long, nostalgic monologue about America. Throughout the book, dialogue is given tremendous weight and space. Characters speak in full paragraphs, and where there is self-awareness about that, it is quirky and fun. When shoppers overhear Tom, they convince him to run for president. Too often, however, such awareness is lacking. This is most glaringly the case in "The National Cage Bird Show," a story told entirely through messages in a chat room for bird owners. Even when there is an actual narrator, Homes shies away from exposition, forcing her characters to say too much. Nonetheless, there are many true gems of conversation. "Her face is ruined," a mother says in "Hello Everybody." It is the first thing she says upon seeing her child in the hospital after a grizzly car accident. "I'm calling Dr. Pecker…if there's anyone he'll come in off the golf course for, it's me." " ‘Leave it,' the daughter [begs]. ‘I'll look like I've lived.' "Stories filled with dark wit in the tradition of Amy Hempel and Joy Williams.
In "The National Cage Bird Show," a story midway through this first work since Homes's 2012 Women's Prize-winning May We Be Forgiven, a soldier and a troubled young woman enter a chat room for budgies (a type of parakeet) and take the conversation in various personal and fractured directions in ways that jangle the other chat roomers (and maybe readers, too): what's going on here? That sort of disorientation occurs throughout. Two friends playact their way through a lunch meeting, imitating a noxious husband; the extemporaneous poolside meeting of Cheryl and Walter gradually reveals the past and present of her wealthy, laughably class-conscious family (Cheryl's sister can't believe Walter's family doesn't have their own pool); and the War Correspondent and Transgressive Novelist see each other again at a genocide conference, having sex (though she's a lesbian) and fighting afterward about their own past and present, their superfluities contrasting sharply with the conference theme. Certainly they know that, but other characters aren't always so wise; we can feel dropped into the middle of a conversation, and it doesn't always work. VERDICT Sometimes fascinating, sometimes frustrating tales of modern absurdity; Homes's many fans will want. [See Prepub Alert, 12/11/17.]