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American Masculine – Shann Ray

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American Masculine by Shann Ray

Publisher: Graywolf Press

I don’t read a lot of short story collections. I tend to prefer meatier novels that allow me to really get to know the characters and follow a story line from beginning to end. However, Shann Ray’s debut collection American Masculine was definitely an exception worth making. Winner of the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference Bakeless Prize, these stories read like a novel. There were recurring characters and themes that kept the stories flowing seamlessly from one to the next.

Taking place in Montana, with brief stints in Washington, the stories show us the face of everyday America. We meet families dealing with the struggle of addiction, husbands and wives facing divorce and the loss of children, and the ever-changing relationships between children and their parents.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I write in the books I read (unless it’s a library book). I mark passages that stand out or quotes I want to remember. I read American Masculine with a highlight nearby and I’m glad I did because the writing in this book is outstanding. I found the prose to be almost lyrical in style. Ray kept his style simple – there wasn’t a lot of flowery language and he really kept the emphasis on getting to know the characters. I was able to relate to some of the stories, especially The Miracles of Vincent Van Gogh, about a young man who sells loans to people and believes in love above all else.

I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite story from the book, because I enjoyed them all. I don’t re-read books, but I have a feeling this is one I’ll go back to in the future. It’s obvious Mr. Ray took his time writing these stories (and they’ve been published in other collections) and is absolutely deserving of having won the prize. That being said, I will leave you with a quote from When We Rise: The loneliness and the love that unburden loneliness are like a basketball in flight, the yearning and the longed-for affection, the heightened expectation, the resolution that comes of seeing the ball in the net (pg. 79).

Disclaimer: I received this book from Graywolf Press, as a prize from a Facebook contest. I was not compensated in any way and all thoughts are my own.

http://www.girlseeksplace.wordpress.com

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