What You've Been Missing

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University of Iowa Press, 2004 - Fiction - 140 pages
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Populated by characters as frank as their midwestern settings, What You’ve Been Missing, Janet Desaulniers’s debut collection, explores the unsettling moments when ordinary life ceases to exist. Parents, confused by their five-year-old’s refusal to sit up in her chair, lift her blouse to find she’s been beaten. A woman returns from a shopping trip just in time to see her husband kissing a young co-worker. A young husband constructs an elaborate and romanticized version of his new marriage and then ruins it in one gesture. These singular moments propel each person on a journey beyond the realm of everyday existence.

Vividly portraying the possible horrors and detours that can mark anyone’s life, Desaulniers beautifully captures the vast and often conflicting emotions that humans endure at times of loss and sorrow—loneliness, pain, desperation, desire. Yet this balletic push and pull of emotions will challenge, wound, and ultimately enlighten her characters, transporting them to a place beyond individual sorrow.

At times unbearably heartbreaking, What You’ve Been Missing is not just another set of stories about bad things happening to good people. At its heart, this award-winning collection is about people continuing to talk—rather than shutting down—as bad things happen to them. As the recently divorced Liza thinks in “The Good Fight”: “Words do ease us. They comfort us. Maybe they protect us in a way, rescue us from the agony of what our bodies feel.”

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What you've been missing

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Desaulniers's debut is a collection of gritty, realistic, taut, and fast-paced short stories, with an emphasis on this last feature. In mostly Midwestern settings, ordinary people face loss, fear, and ... Read full review

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About the author (2004)

Janet Desaulniers is the recipient of literary fellowships from the James A. Michener/Copernicus Society, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Illinois Arts Council, along with a Pushcart Prize and a Transatlantic Review award for fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous literary publications, including the New Yorker, TriQuarterly, the North American Review, and Ploughshares. She currently teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and lives in Evanston.

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