Little Sinners, and Other Stories

Little Sinners, and Other Stories

by Karen Brown

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780803243422
Publisher: UNP - Nebraska Paperback
Publication date: 09/01/2012
Series: Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author


Karen Brown is the author of Pins and Needles: Stories, winner of the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction, and The Longings of Wayward Girls: A Novel. Her stories have been included in The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009 and The Best American Short Stories 2008.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Little Sinners 1

Swimming 17

Stillborn 29

Homing 51

The Philter 69

An Heiress Walks Into a Bar 87

The Fountain 109

Passing 129

Leaf House 141

Mistresses 163

Housewifery 185

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Little Sinners, and Other Stories 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Author_RichardThomas More than 1 year ago
THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT THE NERVOUS BREAKDOWN. Winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction, Little Sinners and Other Stories (University of Nebraska Press) by Karen Brown is a collection of tales set primarily in the supposed domestic bliss of quiet, suburban life. But these tales are anything but mundane and conservative: they reach out into the shadows and chipped sidewalks that surround these cookie cutter lives that fall apart all around us. Death and betrayal, loneliness and desperation, dreams dissolved and love left cold on the doorsteps of our everyday existence—these are the stories we are given. Secrets are scattered across this collection of stories. Sometimes they are revealed to us at the end of a story, everything finally adding up to a gasp or a sigh. Other times we are told what has happened, many years ago. Take “The Philter,” a story of wealth and privilege that slowly reveals the family secrets, witnessed from a rock atop a hill, naked flesh on a well-lit stage below. What is to be believed? Something is off: “Miranda cut the cake, one glazed with fruit and giving off a cloying, almost perfumed scent. She served the coffee while Georgie poured the brandy. I sat quietly, accepting the cake, the drink in its crystal snifter. I didn’t know if Sarah and Miranda’s mother was dead, or if she’d run off with a lover. I didn’t wonder why Sarah believed she was buried in the garden. Any of these things could be true, and the possibility of them filled the night with something clandestine. I felt the power of their secret, and I wanted to know it. Sarah stared at me across the table like an unrequited lover. Her cake sat untouched on its plate.” Sometimes the story unfolds in front of us, and we are pulled into the drama, the history. Do we say something, take a stand, or quietly disappear into the night and forget that anything ever happened? How quickly a gesture of kindness turns into a flight for survival, anything to keep our previously boring lives intact. Another recurring theme is that of loss, that of leaving—fathers, mothers, anyone of influence who has shaped and bruised our hearts. Take this thoughtful moment from “Passing” where a visit to the old homestead brings up memories of a different time, the passing ghost of a father long gone: “He left when I was fifteen and Keely twelve, and I can remember only the loss of him that lurked in my mother’s bland look, her absent nod, the hands that dried themselves over and over on the dishtowel, and then the faces of neighbors, pitying, curious, and their food, in white Corning Ware casseroles, that arrived for years because no one knew when to stop. Still, we see these clean dishes stacked on the kitchen counter, and I think our mother must never cook. In our house his absence was so forcibly felt, it was like an unidentifiable smell that followed you from room to room, and I could not stay there. Keely left soon after, pushed out, snubbed by the loss of him, unable to stand the smell of it that we have come close to naming—a mixture of oranges and freshly cut grass. I have never missed him. I do not remember the sound of his voice. When people ask me about him, I tell them he is dead.” When you are left with only the echo of the punch, the wreckage that lies about after the damage is done, what does it look like? Many times it still honors the monster, unable, or unwilling, to move on. CONTINUE REVIEW AT THE NERVOUS BRE