four-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
25-Nov-Dec-2006
user_rating: 
0

Stories

A-Aunt Hagar's Children.epsThis 14-story collection, set in the author’s native Washington, D.C., sifts through an impressive range of African-American experiences in the 20th century. Many characters are from the rural South, now facing the complications of urban life. A man, after serving a prison sentence for murder, struggles through dinner at his brother’s house. A young couple, new to the capital city, finds and takes in an abandoned child. A retired army officer is reluctant to cool his voracious appetite for ever-younger women. And in the title story, the daydreaming 24-year-old narrator catches the haunting last words of an old Yiddish woman.
Amistad. 399 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0060557567

Denver Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Jones has a gimlet eye that bores beyond the societal to find the deeper truths in the relationships between friends, family, and community. The results are lyrical, breathtaking, and transcendent." Robin Vidimos

Oregonian 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Edward P. Jones takes his time and gets spectacular results. … It is as if Jones were re-creating the entire city, block by block, through time—but only the black portions of Washington." David J. Loftus

NY Times Book Review 4.5 of 5 Stars
"The collection manages to stun on every page; there are too many breathtaking lines to count." Dave Eggers

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Now there can be no doubt about it: Edward P. Jones belongs in the first rank of American letters. … He is one of the few contemporary American writers of literary fiction who is more interested in the world around him than he is in himself, with the happy result that he has much to tell us about ourselves and how we live now." Jonathan Yardley

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Jones’s evocation of the distant past and the uncomfortable present is remarkable because of the humanity that illuminates each story and binds the reader to his characters." Dana Johnson

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"These are long and rigorously developed stories that have a craftsman quality about them, where, astonishingly, almost every character is well defined to almost perfect pitch. And while the stories steer clear of too much literary gamesmanship, they are demanding to read." David Hellman

Critical Summary

Pulitzer Prize–winning author Edward P. Jones (The Known World, 4 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2003) once again unfurls his extraordinary literary talent on the world. Though a few reviewers admit he makes "occasional missteps" (New York Times), the overall effect of these poignant, demanding, and nonlinear stories is respectful awe. These are short stories, yes, but all of the tales employ novelistic time shifts and multiple subplots. The characters are utterly human and given to temptation, but Jones treats them all with admirable tenderness. At the same time he persuasively honors their biblical antecedent Hagar, the woman cast out by Abraham, the mother of a new nation (perhaps Africa), and the Bible’s first slave.