Last Year's Jesus: A Novella and Nine Stories
Now available in paperback, a collection of interconnected stories by an award-winning writer with a distinctive voice and an unerring sense of place. The stories in this affecting debut collection are populated by the sober, self-effacing members of Detroit's Polish-Catholic working class. Linked by place and characters, the stories create a world both familiar and strange, where religion is a way of life and traditions are carried down through the generations. But even this isolated community cannot remain immutable. In these wonderfully poignant and witty stories based on people and places she knows well, Ellen Slezak documents the colorful clash of young and old, of religious and secular, of traditional values and the temptations of the flesh. Like Winesburg, Ohio, Last Year's Jesus creates a fully realized world teetering on the brink of change. Writing with tremendous empathy, warmth, and humor, Slezak brings to life the sights and sounds of a place she calls home--a place readers won't soon forget.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
Ellen Slezak's collection of short stories are all set in and around Detroit and feature characters who, like the city, are both down on their luck and hopeful things might just work out anyway. Beyond that, each story is entirely different from the one before. Some of the stories are heart-breaking, and remind me of Bonnie Jo Campbell's American Salvage, like in Lucky where mentally ill Trudger just wants to keep his job sweeping floors at the mall so he can maintain his precarious life outside of the hospital. Others have a wry sense of humor, like in Tomato Watch, where Lucy's long stretch of bad decisions have her unemployed, pregnant and spending the summer caring for her grandfather, who has planted tomatoes in the middle of her mother's well-groomed front lawn. Slezak writes about children with a pitch perfect touch, aware of both their dependence on people who are not always as reliable as their children need them to be and ever eager to hope for things to work out in the end.
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
Since I was born in Detroit, grew up in the suburbs, and lived more than half of my life in the area, Ellen Slezak's stories brought back a lot of memories of persons and places: Bob-Lo Island, Ernie Harwell, the Ford River Rouge Plant, Sonny Eliot, Bozo, Jerry Cavanaugh, Woodward Avenue, Hamtramck, Tiger Stadium, etc. That said, I think there's plenty in Slezak's stories that non-Detroiters will relate to. They are very human stories. Two aging sisters stuck working at a GM plant are both rivals and best friends. A young boy, abandoned by his mother, moves in with his father and new wife and finds comfort in the friendship of an elderly neighbot. Three sisters whose lives have taken different directions quarrel over whether or not to move the body of a sister who died young to be near her parents' graves. A young woman who tries to turn an abandoned building into a European-style hotel gets more than she bargained for from a Russian tenant. These are stories with a lot of heart, and the characters ring psychologically true. The "novella," titled "Head, Heart, Legs, or Arms," is narrated by nine-year old Mona, whose little sister DeeDee has been hospitalized. Mona doesn't know what's wrong with DeeDee, and no one will tell her; in a diary entry, she ponders: "Possible things wrong with her: 1. Amputation, 2. Blindness (one or two eyes), 3. Retardation, 4. Heart murmur, 5. Other? Possible body parts affected: a. Head, b. Heart, c. Legs or arms." In a prime example of children's magical thinking, Mona believes that if she doesn't see DeeDee in the hospital, her sister will come home. In the background are the 1967 riots, a serial killer on the loose in Ann Arbor (where her sister Rose will move to attend university in the fall), and the Tigers' shot at the American League title, as well as ongoing family issues. Slezak's Mona is a narrator who thinks like a child and sounds like a child--something rarely done so effectively. Recommended--and I plan to look for more of Slezak's work.
LAST YEARS JESUS OR PASSION PLAY
THE GEESE AT MAYVILLE
HERE IN CAR CITY
IF YOU TREAT THINGS RIGHT
HEAD HEART LEGS OR ARMS
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`Last Year's Jesus: A Novella and Nine Stories' by Ellen Slezak; Theia/Hyperion ($22.95). Detroit Free Press (via Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service); ...
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BOOKS IN BRIEF: FICTION. By CHRIS COLIN. LAST YEAR'S JESUS A Novella and Nine Stories. By Ellen Slezak. Theia/Hyperion, $22.95. ...
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