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A Guide to Being Born: Stories
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A Guide to Being Born: Stories

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  1,409 Ratings  ·  244 Reviews
Reminiscent of Aimee Bender and Karen Russell—an enthralling collection that uses the world of the imagination to explore the heart of the human condition.

Major literary talent Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty, coming Summer 2016, combines the otherworldly wisdom of her much-loved debut novel, No One Is Here Except All of Us, with the precis
Hardcover, 198 pages
Published May 2nd 2013 by Riverhead Books
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Joce (squibblesreads)
Jun 08, 2016 Joce (squibblesreads) rated it it was amazing
I'd give this 6 stars if I could.
Maya Lang
Jul 23, 2013 Maya Lang rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, lush stories that are sobering, heart-breaking, mesmerizing, shocking. Two of my favorite things: 1) I was full of admiration for the author's ability to connect micro and macro. A small detail lingers and becomes its own moment, but without being overdone. (Often, the sentences are perfect.) You feel the whole world of the story contained in a moment between two characters or in an observation, but the "big picture," the macro, is never neglected. Each story feels perfectly ...more
Aug 16, 2016 Kasia added it
Second disappointing book in three days. I need to reconsider my life choices. Clearly.
Timothy O'Donnell
Jul 22, 2013 Timothy O'Donnell rated it it was amazing
I have given myself several days to digest this collection of short fiction by Ramona Ausubel. I'm not one for reviews but I wanted to say something because this book made me do something I've never done before when reading a story.

There is a moment in one of the stories (I won't name it, you'll have to read for yourself) where I audibly gasped. The air in my lungs vanished. My heart sank. It sounds hyperbolic but I was literally heartbroken for a split second. Then the story resolved in a way w
April Cote
Aug 03, 2015 April Cote rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. A bizarre, magical twist on stories about life, family and love. All but two stories had my full attention. The two that didn't just fell flat for me, they were not bad, just couldn't hold my attention.
I highly recommend if your looking for stories on life issues you can connect with, even if they have a fantasy twist that leaves you happy but confused that you understand the magical twist on a personal, emotional level.
Mar 05, 2015 binnudeya rated it it was amazing
I finally liked short stories!
Nov 16, 2013 Amy rated it liked it
I liked this, but it never tipped over into love. Not quite sure why. It had everything I liked - poetic prose, just enough magic realism to thrill me, beautiful language. It just didn't move me like I wanted it to. (I think this might be because I'm still under the spell of Safe as Houses and for a while nothing will be able to live up.)

The stories were, for the most part, quite lovely, however. The grandmothers crowded on the boat in "Safe Passage." The parents longing for their child to both
Oct 12, 2014 Holly rated it really liked it
One of the best short story collections I’ve read in a long time, this has just the right amount of whimsy and seriousness. It is a brilliant collection of short stories with the themes of birth, life and death. Ausubel combines powerful emotional storytelling with strange magical realism. One of the highlights for me was a story about a man who wakes up one morning to find a set of draws in his chest. His pregnant wife gets jealous because he is paying more attention to this development than to ...more
Not sure what to think of this one. I didn't hate any of the stories, and I certainly liked some of them, but I have to say a lot of them completely went over my head. It's not a good sign when the biggest impression you have of a short story after finishing it is what was the point of that???. That being said, my absolute favourite story was "Chest of Drawers." It's about this man with a literal chest of drawers and it really surprised me with how clever and thought-provoking it was. That was t ...more
Rachel Aloise
Jul 18, 2014 Rachel Aloise rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
At the flick of a page these stories can morph from the weird and wondrous to truths, raw and unflinching. I was moved to near tears more than once. Ausubel's prose is beautifully balanced as drops of magical realism are distilled into emotionally gripping tales. I readily suspended disbelief at the growth of love-arms in the evocative 'Tributaries' or other anatomical oddities in the devastating 'Poppyseed'. Only a couple of stories failed to affect me in the same way- hence the four stars- but ...more
Hayley DeRoche
Sep 01, 2013 Hayley DeRoche rated it really liked it
Belated review since I had to find this quote from a professor giving a speech to sleeping faculty in a darkened auditorium, except it's really just a sad little speech to his dead wife. Which sounds morbid and contrite when I explain it that way, but the story itself is actually quite quietly luminous.

" 'I have been weeding around the Johnny-jump-ups and watering the apricot tree. Yesterday the poppies were looking droopy, so I gave them extra water and they perked right up. It was amazing how
Jun 20, 2013 Kim rated it liked it
This was a collection of short stories which makes it hard to assign a star rating. Some stories were 4 stars, some were 2, and one I would give a 5. So, three stars seemed the most fair. Warning - these stories are very odd. Few of them were completely grounded in reality, and some were so strange, I felt like I was constantly saying, "What?!" For example, in one story, a man who is a little obsessed with and overwhelmed by his wife's pregnancy wakes up to find he has grown a set of small drawe ...more
You CAN judge a book by its cover. Perhaps that's not fair to Ausubel, whose book stands on merits far beyond its colorful, fantastic cover. But that's what first attracted me to this book, and happily, the contents within proved to be every bit as fantastic and engaging.

I was enchanted by the opening tale of a ship carrying a cargo of puzzled grandmothers. Where were they? How had they gotten there? Where were they going? The dream haze of the story slowly clears as one of the grandmothers reco
DNF at page 57. It is clear that Ausubel's writing is beautiful, a true talent. But I just cannot suffer through another story. Art doesn't have to be so depressing.
ashley chua
Dec 14, 2014 ashley chua rated it really liked it
I used to collect paperbacks with the allowance my parents gave me when I was younger - way before goodreads - and I'm looking at my shelves right now and making note of everything on them. This is a copy given to me by a friend on my birthday two years back. While I can't remember the stories, I remember the crisp writing style and tone and the stories in perfect bite-size for the reader to munch on. Probably was good.
Apr 16, 2017 Liz rated it really liked it
Rarely has a collection of short stories affected me to the magnitude as this one. Ausubel writes with such passion and lyricism that I was propelled into each story with hunger for the next.

This collection is comprised of a set of stories broken into stages of growth but works backward from birth to gestation to conception and ends, finally, with love.

In each section there are two to three stories that fall within that category. Stories of the aches of death and rebirth, as well as the act of f
Aj Sterkel
Apr 27, 2016 Aj Sterkel rated it really liked it
These stories are bizarre. That’s the best word to describe them. Even the stories that aren’t magical realism have that strange “people behaving weirdly” thing going on. The author definitely has a talent for making the realistic feel fantastical.

As soon as I finished this collection, I put Ramona Ausubel’s other books on my wish list because A Guide to being Born contains some of the best writing I’ve seen in a long time. The author takes small details and makes them hugely meaningful, but not
Mar 08, 2013 Hilary rated it liked it
Copy received through Goodreads’ First Reads program.

It must be difficult to be a writer with any sort of a fabulist/surrealist/magical/fantastical bent these days, as reviews of your work are pretty much just countdowns to a lazy reference to Karen Russell. The back of this book saves reviewers that trouble by describing these stories as “[r]eminiscent of Aimee Bender and Karen Russell,” and these stories certainly have a strong fantasy element that should appeal to Russell’s fans. However, fo
Aug 01, 2016 Jenna rated it it was ok
Goodreads recommended this collection of short stories to me because I had liked "Vampires in the Lemon Grove". A Guide to Being Born was similar to Vampires in the fact that it was a collection of short stories and that it employed the use of some magical elements; but otherwise I found the two books to be completely different from one another.

I was not swept up in Ausubel's mini worlds in the same way that I had been enveloped in Russell's. (Perhaps Ausubel's metaphors were more difficult for
Julianne (Outlandish Lit)
Apr 19, 2015 Julianne (Outlandish Lit) rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
This collection of short stories made me ugly cry twice, then tear up another time. Right out of the gate, Ausubel hits hard with her surreal, but emotionally direct, creations. Some stories are stranger than others. There's a ghost, there's a man who grows a cabinet of drawers in his chest, a ship with only confused grandmas on it, and a world where people grow arms only when they love someone (and there's no limit as to how many that could be). You're thrown immediately into these less than no ...more
4.5 Must Read
(Rounded to 5)

One of my goals for this year was to broaden my reading horizons a bit and explore some new genres. Up until a few weeks ago I had never read a short story collection. After completing “How to Breathe Underwater” by Julie Orringer, and now “A Guide to Being Born”, I know I'm just getting started.

I absolutely adored this collection!! It was super quirky and weird, which is right up my alley. The stories were so engrossing and I loved the magical realism elements Ramona
Cristina Garcia
Nov 24, 2014 Cristina Garcia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read_in_2014
What a book, WHAT A BOOK.

As soon as I read the first story in this anthology, I knew I'd love it. It was rich in symbols and interesting ideas.

And can I just say that I want to be Miss C?

This book gets really out there sometimes like the pregnancy story that has a giraffe peek out of the girl's womb. I hated that story, by the way. But it makes you really think about what's going on, what it all means in the story and in your life -- at least I did.

It's only 200 pages, but it's so thick with
Mar 01, 2013 Rand rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone, even you
Ausubel has birthed a thing of rare beauty with this one.

Whether by making anthropomorphic idioms literal à la magical realism or contrasting ordinary folks with the extraordinary-but-possible, each of these stories embody what it means to be human in the here and now and hear the sound of the universe affirming one's every breath.

Definitely worth your time. Minus one star due to some of the stories being less stellar than the rest, but the good ones make this book worth picking up.
Nov 16, 2014 Jen rated it liked it
The first three stories in this collection I adored. Poppyseed in particular. It was beautiful and it made my heart ache! Some of the stories in this collection have elements of the surreal, those I enjoyed the most.

The rest of the stories in this collection were well written but by the end I was left feeling unsatisfied. Like there was some bigger picture I was missing. There were a few stories, although super short, that I made myself finish.

But, because of those first few stories, I will defi
rose vibrations
Sep 04, 2014 rose vibrations rated it liked it
This book left me feeling very underwhelmed...hence three stars. Maybe even 2.5 stars... I was initially drawn to the book at Chapters because of the interesting and colourful cover, which I know is never a good reason to buy a book, but the stories sounded like they could also be potentially semi-good too. Anyway, some of them weren't bad. Like the first few. As the stories went on though, they seemed to get progressively poorer and boring, and by the last few stories I think I stopped paying a ...more
Hilary Hanselman
Jul 18, 2016 Hilary Hanselman rated it really liked it
There were some really strong stories in this collection. Ausubel explores love, birth, gestation, conception and death with tenderness and dark humor. A couple of the stories blend into the background in contrast to the stronger ones, which can be as dark and grotesque as they can be beautiful. Sometimes Ausubel renders ideas with extreme clarity and sometimes the ideas fail to come together. Magic creeps along the edges or sprouts confidently forth, never cloying, always earned. I will certain ...more
Jun 06, 2013 Karina rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobooks, scribd
I stuggled with this one - would have given a 2.5 if there was an option. I generally like some magical realism in my stories but really struggled with the images in some of these stories. Although I liked a couple of the short stories, the remainder just didn't grab me personally. Not sure if that has to do with the fact that I listened to it on audiobook. Ultimately, I just didn't feel pulled into the stories and it took me a while to get through. I am interesed in reading Ms. Ausubel's book - ...more
Aug 29, 2015 Wesley rated it really liked it
Ausubel's stories are the drunk uncle at Thanksgiving: attention-grabbing, amusing, casually insightful. The suspension of disbelief is a tough undertaking for me but plausibility never even factored in given the author's storytelling sophistication. No matter how fantastic the conceit, the stories are full of such emotional authenticity and their underlying points dressed so beautifully, the collection is an undeniable pleasure.
I'm giving this 2 stars only because I didn't like it, but I imagine that other people might. I think Ramona Ausubel is a talented writer, but I just don't go in much for these types of stories (vague/generalized tales with a hefty dose of magical realism). If that's your jam, check out this collection. It happens not to be my jam.
Jun 19, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it
This was a rather disturbing and consciousness expanding collection of short stories. Definitely a very different and interesting work. I can't say I liked all of the stories but the first one "Safe Passage" immediately grabbed my heart and I cried all the way through it....Very imaginative and trippy reading experience.
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Ramona Ausubel is the author of a new novel, Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty (on sale 6/14/2016) as well as No One is Here Except All of Us, winner of the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Fiction, the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and Finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. Her collection of stories, A Guide to Being Born, was a New York Times’ Notable Book. He ...more
More about Ramona Ausubel...

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“You must have come from very far down," Alice says to the fish, "to have your own lantern.” 2 likes
“He let himself into the house and sat down with his back against the door, where the tiles were cool on his legs and he tried to hear, as he had earlier imagined, every single thing that his wife was not doing in their home on this Sunday night. He could hardly keep track of it all, she was so busy being absent. She was not pouring water into a glass or a pitcher. She was not kicking his shoes out of the hall. She was not switching the laundry into the dryer. She was not opening the screen door and going outside barefoot and calling for him to come look at the sunset. She was not putting lotion on her elbows or flattening the newspaper or picking up the ringing telephone, which would go on calling out the absence of Petra in nine-ring sequences dozens of times every day.” 1 likes
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