The souvenir museum Stories

Elizabeth McCracken

Book - 2021

"Award-winning author Elizabeth McCracken is an undisputed virtuoso of the short story, and this new collection features her most vibrant and heartrending work to date"--

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Short stories
New York : Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers [2021]
Main Author
Elizabeth McCracken (author)
First edition
Physical Description
243 pages ; 22 cm
  • The Irish wedding
  • Proof
  • It's not you
  • A splinter
  • Mistress Mickle all at sea
  • Birdsong from the radio
  • The get-go
  • Robinson Crusoe at the waterpark
  • A walk-through human heart
  • Two sad clowns
  • The souvenir museum
  • Nothing, darling, only darling, darling.
Review by Booklist Review

McCracken returns to the short story, following her novel Bowlaway (2019), in an assured collection. A number of the 12 tales track couple Jack and Sadie through phases in their relationship over the years. "The Irish Wedding" finds the two travelling abroad for a wedding. While Sadie interacts with Jack's colorful family, she also sees a new side of Jack, and finds herself confronting her own thoughts on marriage. In "Nothing, Darlin, Only Darling, Darling," as the now middle-aged couple honeymoons in Amsterdam, they each flirt with what could have been. Other stories find characters struggling for resolution amidst grief over choices they've made. In the tender but somber "Proof," a father and son journey to Scotland for a boat tour in an attempt to bridge the gap between sorrow and guilt. "Robinson Crusoe at the Water Park" follows Ernest and Bruno as they take their son on an unlikely adventure in an indoor, German-themed water park in Texas. McCracken opens up worlds in a mere sentence, and every page is illuminated with nuanced observations of human behavior.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

McCracken's sly, emotionally complex collection (after Bowlaway) focuses on characters uprooted from their usual surroundings. In "The Irish Wedding," Jack Valerts brings his new love, Sadie Brody, from Boston to Ireland to meet his family at the wedding of his older sister, where Sadie confronts for the first time the slapstick and sometimes threatening dynamics of the Valerts while holding her own with a quick wit. "Miss Mickle All at Sea" follows the increasingly fraught mental state of an actor known for playing the villain on a children's show as she travels from Amsterdam, where she's been celebrating New Year's Eve, back to England, in the company of an elderly balloon animal artist. In "Robinson Crusoe at the Waterpark," four-year-old Cody's two fathers take him to a German-themed water park in Galveston, Tex., where older father Bruno's fear of drowning comically affects his negotiation of a wave pool. McCracken has a gift for surprising similes--"shoes damp as oysters"; "bored lifeguards, staring like unemployed goats"--that ignite the reader's imagination, making great fun out of ordinary settings and scenery. Each story opens to reveal a whole life spent within the web of a family, chosen or not. Full of gems, this collection is a winner. (Apr.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

A National Book Award finalist for The Giant's House, McCracken also shines in short fiction; Thunderstruck & Other Stories won the 2014 Story Prize andwas long-listed for the National Book Award. Her subject here is the family bond, whether between a widow andher adult son looking for puffins in Scotland or a children's-show actressand the washed-up brother withwhom she celebrates on New Year'sEve. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

After the multigenerational, somewhat whimsical sweep of Bowlaway (2019), McCracken switches gears and proves her mastery of short fiction with these 12 tightly structured, searingly realistic stories. Four linked stories about a couple named Jack and Sadie are interspersed throughout and form the book's unifying spine. The opener, "The Irish Wedding," refers to Jack's sister's nuptials, where Jewish American Sadie meets Jack's British family for the first time. Intimations of the fault lines in their relationship are revealed along with hints that it may last despite them. Enduring love--along with the urge to resist it--is this volume's common theme, whether in relationships between parents and children, lovers, ex-lovers, friends, and even in-laws. In "Robinson Crusoe at the Waterpark," a few seconds of panic cause a middle-aged gay man to drop his wry surface detachment and acknowledge his commitment toward his more emotive partner and their child. While in Denmark ostensibly to visit Legoland with her 10-year-old son, the divorced bookkeeper of the title story juggles her complicated feelings for the boy with her dead father's final request to find her long-lost former boyfriend and give him a bequest. "A Walk-Through the Human Heart" illuminates the vein of cruelty that sometimes runs through parental love, making it all the more powerful, as a mother desperately searches vintage shops for the Baby Alive doll she refused to buy her grown, now-pregnant daughter as an 8-year-old. "Birdsong From the Radio," about a stay-at-home suburban mother whose love grows destructive, shows the risk of caring too much. McCracken's stories are often heartbreaking, but those about Jack and Sadie are particularly incisive, showing all the hidden crevices of a long-term relationship. Over the course of the book, both characters are pulled between the urges to disguise and reveal themselves, to cling and to run. By the last story, when they marry 20 years after they met, they still harbor resentments and deep disagreements. But what longtime couple doesn't? An astonishingly powerful collection worth multiple readings. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.