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You Are Not a Stranger Here
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In his bestselling and lavishly praised first book of stories, Adam Haslett explores lives that appear shuttered by loss and discovers entire worlds hidden inside them. The impact is at once harrowing and thrilling.
An elderly inventor, burning with manic creativity, tries to reconcile with his estranged gay son. A bereaved boy draws a thuggish classmate into a relationship of escalating guilt and violence. A genteel middle-aged woman, a long-time resident of a psychiatric hospital, becomes the confidante of a lovelorn teenaged volunteer. Told with Chekhovian restraint and compassion, and conveying both the sorrow of life and the courage with which people rise to meet it, You Are Not a Stranger Here is a triumph of storytelling.
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About the Author

Adam Haslett is the author of the novel Imagine Me Gone; the short story collection You Are Not A Stranger Here, which was a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist and which won the PEN/Winship Award; and the novel Union Atlantic, which won the Lambda Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize. His books have been translated into eighteen languages, and he has received the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin, the PEN/Malamud Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations. He lives in New York City.

Reviews

In this affecting debut collection, Yale Law School student Haslett explores the complex phenomena of depression and mental illness, drawing a powerful connection between those who suffer and those who attempt to alleviate that suffering. In "The Good Doctor," Frank, a young M.D., goes out of his way to discover the origin of his patient's illness, only to learn of both her untreatable pain and his own fears and regrets: "The fact was he still felt like a sponge, absorbing the pain of the people he listened to." In "The Beginnings of Grief," suffering becomes a way of healing when a teenager coming to terms with both his homosexuality and his parents' sudden deaths seeks connection wherever he can find it, even in the pain inflicted by a classmate's violence. Often, Haslett convincingly interweaves the perspectives and lives of seemingly disparate individuals. In "The Volunteer," a teenager's awkward incomprehension in the face of his first sexual encounter bizarrely coincides with the breakdown of a schizophrenic woman he visits after school. Not all of the stories are charged with this kind of emotional complexity, however, and some tend toward the sentimental, as does "The Storyteller," in which the clinically depressed Paul, who feels himself to be nothing but a burden to his wife, Ellen, rediscovers his vitality in a chance encounter with an elderly woman and her dying son. Though the thematic similarity of many of the stories dulls their startling initial impact, this is a strikingly assured first effort. (July) Forecast: A blurb from Jonathan Franzen is particularly apt, since Haslett's eye for contemporary detail and talent for capturing complex emotional states makes his work resemble that of the author of The Corrections. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Those setting collection policy in public libraries are often forced to base their decisions on genre alone and will buy a detective novel, for instance, at the expense of a collection of short stories, especially one by a first-time author. Haslett's debut shows what is wrong with this approach. Courageous and compelling as any in today's fiction, the despairing characters in these nine stories are all related to someone who has left or will leave them, usually owing to mental illness. In "Divination," for instance, a sensitive boy reflects on the precise moment when he became alienated from his family. In "Notes to My Biographer," the narrator, in a burst of manic impulsion, decides to visit a son he has not seen in years. His irascible sense of humor propels the story until we learn that his son treats his inherited disease with medication that the father won't ingest; reconciliation is only possible if the son stops taking his. Such uncompromising and realistic representations of depression and its symptoms are commendable. Too often, the sufferers' loved ones are depicted with lugubrious sobbing, but the narratives move forward with few detours, and readers will turn the pages accordingly. Strongly recommended for mid- and large-sized public libraries and academic literary collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/02.] Edward Keane, Long Island Univ. Lib., Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"Spectacular. . . . You should buy this book, you should read it, and you should admire it. . . . [It] is the herald of a phenomenal career." --The New York Times Book Review "Extraordinary. . . . Frighteningly tender. . . . Displays an order as natural as a tree branch in winter--lithe and achingly austere." --The Boston Globe "Haslett possesses a rich assortment of literary gifts: an instinctive empathy for his characters and an ability to map their inner lives in startling detail; a knack for graceful, evocative prose; and a determination to trace the hidden arithmetic of relationships." --The New York Times "Fascinating. . . . Haslett is an eloquent, precise miniaturist." --The New Yorker "Elegant. . . . Invigorating. . . . [Haslett has an] assured, almost democratic empathy for his admirably varied characters. . . . These are graceful, mature, witty stories." --San Francisco Chronicle

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