From the author of Bowlaway comes a collection of stories in which the mysterious bonds of family are tested, transformed, fractured, and fortified. A recent widower and his adult son ferry to a craggy Scottish island in search of puffins. An actress who plays a children's game-show villainess ushers in the New Year with her deadbeat half brother. A mother, pining for her children, feasts on loaves of challah to fill the void. A new couple navigates a tightrope walk toward love. And on a trip to a Texas water park with their son, two fathers each confront a personal fear.
Elizabeth McCracken's The Souvenir Museum begins with one of the funniest short stories I've read in a long time ... I had to stop reading 'The Irish Wedding' several times to explain to my husband why I was laughing so hard. I kept thinking: I wish I were reading a whole book about these people ... they're all beguiling ... This tale, like much of McCracken's work, captures the mixed bag that characterizes most people's lives ... McCracken's writing is never dull. She ends this fantastic collection with a second English wedding and its aftermath, nearly 20 years after the first, delivering happiness tempered by sobering circumstances — and a satisfying symmetry.
Whether they take place in Ireland, Texas, Illinois, Amsterdam, or Scotland, the marvelous stories in The Souvenir Museum, Elizabeth McCracken’s impressive third story collection evoke moving depictions of marriage and parenthood, and love, betrayal, and loneliness ... In McCracken’s dramatic and often humorous stories you’ll find a goluptious coterie of eccentric and fascinating, if not entirely likable, characters whose stories unfold in a steady stream of exquisite writing. Evocative and often droll turns of phrase concoct mental images of shoes that are 'damp as oysters,' voices brew like 'hot cider,' flesh can be 'so fair-skinned as to be combustible,' and the 'hatred of castoffery came upon her like an allergy.' Inanimate objects come to life, too.
I find myself laughing with simple delight at her just-so-right-ness. She has the eye, ear, and voice for capturing the essence of the world as it unfurls around all of us—trapping us, dragging us along, leaving many of us trailing in its wake. She’s right in the scrum with us, sharing it all: the absurd, the miraculous, the horrific, the utterly banal. In McCracken’s hands, it’s gold ... the...stories in The Souvenir Museum are the kind that hold up well beyond a single re-reading. How far beyond? I’ll let you know when I get there.