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Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work: Stories

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  255 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
“Everything Natalie said seemed, to herself, to have been said better by him. He was less fond of speaking, however, than he was of hitting people in the face, which seemed a more likely source of her love to those of us who knew him,” begins Jason Brown’s linked collection of beautifully haunted, violent, and wry stories set in the densely forested lands of northern New E ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 10th 2007 by Grove Press, Open City Books (first published January 1st 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 586)
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This is what incredible short fiction looks like. The first story in here is one of the best I think I've ever read, and does things with point of view and with the retrieving and crystallizing of that youth's perspective that has been utterly lost to most of us, that the story just made me.... out of breath. Seriously. It took away my air. None of the other stories physically traumatized me with their brilliance to quite that extent, but they all were good, not a single dud and no dialing-in he ...more
Feb 26, 2008 Laurel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people from Maine/with dark inner lives
Shelves: favorites
Yes, I know, I know, I have most everything packed, okay??
Anyway, I couldn't sleep last night (combination of headcold, late-afternoon coffee run, and I dunno, stress perhaps?) but I stayed up reading these stories, each one hitting me in different, intense ways.
The loneliness and isolation of growing up in small-town Maine was captured here in a way that made me uncomfortable. Try as you may to escape those feelings of freezing cold, poverty, and obsession with people, yourself, and getting ou
Sep 27, 2010 Becky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I'm usually stingy with my 5-star reviews, but with this one I figured what the hell. It's really because I'm not usually into short stories, so when a collection wows me, I give it extra credit. This collection of stories is just phenomenal. They all take place in a fictional small town in Maine, where everybody has secrets and is haunted by their past in one way or another. All of the stories are so atmospheric, and the environment of the woods, the lake, the river, the train tracks, the villa ...more
Mar 04, 2008 Jane rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jane by: Laurel
I'm not from Maine, and I don't know if I have a dark inner life, but this book was incredible. I have a half-formed thought where in crowded, populated, urban places like cities, other people serve to buffer one another (somewhat like human straightjackets, but maybe more like those stakes they use to keep sapling from falling over) from their own predilections towards insanity/odd behavior/etc. It's kind of why spatial emptiness is so terrifying. The spaces in this book are very empty.
Jul 10, 2009 Aeron rated it liked it
This is an exquisitely crafted book of short stories. The first half of the book, I wanted to give it five stars, but I have to say that I grew bored of the fictional community and all the awful things happening by the end of the book. There is something about the "literary" short story that requires it to be dark, I realize, but at some point I just lost all glimmers of hope for the community described in these pages, and thus I lost all interest.
Aug 16, 2010 Marianne rated it liked it
I came across this book while picking up a copy of Dan Brown's book. I really enjoyed Jason Brown's short stories and was always completely taken into the story as if I were there and part of them.
Jan 19, 2009 Adam rated it really liked it
Shelves: americanfiction
I'm pretty sure that these are what short stories are meant to be.
Aug 04, 2010 Casey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thematically, the 11 stories in Jason Brown's second collection pick up where his first left off. We're introduced to characters who are haunted by their pasts, be it their blood, or addiction, or lost loved ones, though this time, the stories are all set in the small northern New England town of Vaughn. There are several first person narrators, but they don't dominate this collection as they did his first.

Like the stories in Driving the Heart, many of these are long stories that sometimes seem
Brett Starr
Apr 21, 2010 Brett Starr rated it it was amazing
Afternoon of the Sassanoa.....

As a passionate reader of short stories, I'm always looking for that next great collection to read. I read reviews, recommendations and alot of "best of" lists. Their are always those few story collections that pop up over and over again, "Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work" is one of those!

Jason Brown's writing is highly regarded and his short story collections well known for quality.

This collection includes eleven stories, ranging from 25-30 pages in l
Nov 14, 2010 Glee rated it did not like it
I had a really hard time with this book. The writing is truly amazing, from a literary/craftsman point of view. But reading it was a very unpleasant experience. If Stephen King's descriptions of Maine don't keep you away, try this book. I don't mean to compare the two authors because they couldn't be more different, not just in terms of skill, but King is so ham-handed and brutal, and Brown is so elegant, spare and haunting. And yet. Truly a hatchet job on Maine. Or any other cold and harsh envi ...more
Feb 09, 2008 Sam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shortfiction
And here we have it, the answer to what's GOOD about linked collections. Most of these stories appeared in magazines before appearing in this collection, suggesting to me that the theme of the book - goings on in a small Maine town - appeared organically in the author's imagination. The perspective shifts for each story, and there isn't a sense of a fixed cast of characters; the shifting consciousness of a small town, of the organic surveillance watchful communities practice on their members, co ...more
Aug 10, 2009 Renee rated it really liked it
These stories are like mica -- pretty, delicate, dark, yet sharp on the edges. I like this book, but it's not for those seeking an action-packed plot, since most of the stories worked well as character studies.

They seemed like abstract snapshots of somebody's mental insides, odd insides at that. Characters had twisted logic, jumping to odd conclusions about other characters and/or interacting in odd ways with other characters; nearly every character, including the children, seemed weighted and
Michael Giuliano
Oct 21, 2015 Michael Giuliano rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
2.5-3 stars. A short story collection revolving around the semi-sinister situations taking place in a small Maine town and its outlying regions. Tried to find a concrete connection between all of the stories between the loose time/location, but couldn't figure it out. Interesting stories, but had difficulty figuring out what the meanings behind them were- probably more a fault of my own than the author. Still, the title was accurate, as each story nicely captured the vaguely creepy and sinister ...more
Sep 25, 2012 Nicola rated it it was amazing
Why DID the Devil choose New England for his work? This book never answers Cotton Mather's pronouncement, but circles around it. Why is this fictional town so cursed? Why is death in all its guises--fake, near, true, incomplete--in each story? Why can't people successfully leave this small town? Why can't the past be left behind? Who to believe? Whose perceptions are not warped like a pane of old glass? I'm put in mind of a passage from Jung when he describes the house he built in Switzerland: " ...more
Sep 16, 2010 jennifer rated it it was amazing
A collection of short stories taking place in Vaughn, Maine, a town so small that everyone knows everyone else and all their business. There's a real sense of community and the names of the townspeople weave into the various stories.
You won't find happy endings or even much happiness at all in these stories. They involve detachments from families,through death,trauma, generation gaps or sometimes just from not fitting in. The title story is unusual as it has a more sinister feel with a skanky pr
David Clark
Apr 08, 2015 David Clark rated it really liked it
Akin to Faulkner's fictitious Yoknapatawpha country, Brown creates the New England town of Vaughn and supplies it with characters as relatable as they are tragic. These eleven loosely connected stories depict what it is to grow up and attempt to make sense of our surroundings.
Latanya Mcqueen
I can't adequately write a review of this because I loved the stories so much. I've been reading a lot of short story collections lately, most recently James Franco's unremarkable "Palo Alto", but none have left such a mark on me as Jason Brown's "Why the Devil Chose New England For His Work". These are heart-rendering stories, beautifully written. Favorites include the first story "She" and the last "Afternoon of the Sassanoa", both of which are so good, so haunting and sad, that when I finishe ...more
Katy Wight
Oct 23, 2008 Katy Wight rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Alan, Fran, Kristina, Traci, Aunt Amy, Amy T
Recommended to Katy by: Believer Magazine
I very much enjoyed these short stories. Jason Brown is like a darker Richard Russo. All of the stories take place in the same small town in Maine. It's a typical small town and none of the people are all that different than folks anywhere, but each story involves a dysfunction or tragedy that shapes the person's (or family's) life. Some of the tragedies are horrible, but not out of the ordinary - they're the things that happen all of the time in any town. I'm making it sound depressing, but you ...more
Apr 21, 2008 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Dark, very dark, set of short stories, loosely linked around a fictional community in Maine and its residents. Brown is a fine craftsman, and the writing gets under your skin in that way that effective writing does. My only complaint, I guess, is that after the two-thirds point or so, I started feeling that the tone had become a bit monochromatic, and that perhaps the community had overstayed its welcome in my mind a bit. Still, this collection is worth reading, probably even more so if you don' ...more
John Pappas
Melancholy and dark, these loosely related stories are filled with characters trying to escape the small towns and back roads on which they grew up. In trying they find they can't escape the past or themselves. From the evocative title of the titular story to the last page, Brown constructs a corner of New England that is heir to the ethos of stories like The Devil and Tom Walker. You may walk into these woods and not return...
Elizabeth Eslami
Aug 27, 2009 Elizabeth Eslami rated it really liked it
Read this collection of linked stories set in rural Maine not for the characters - almost all of whom are poignantly shadowed by loss but almost interchangeable - but rather for the sense of place. Rarely can a short story writer give us a complete history of a town, and rarer still can he make that history linger with us. Like his recurring images of trees and logging, this collection splinters its way into you.
Aug 27, 2009 Mary rated it did not like it
Shelves: drama
A collection of short stories about the most depressing town in New England. The writing wasn't bad, and the stories really made you think about life, but everything about these character's lives was so darn sad that I couldn't continue to read after about the first five stories. Aptly titled - if I was the devil, I'd chose this sad-sack place to perform my tricks - these folks have nothing else to live for.
Apr 15, 2008 Tasha rated it it was amazing
Best book of shorts I've read in forever, given to me by a fellow Polar Bear, and written by one, as well. Set in a small town in Maine, up the Kennebec from Bath, I'll likely use several in my classes.

The title? Doesn't get much better than that. And the first story? "It could be, we reasoned, she was in love with the kind of things he might say if he spoke more often." Too good.

Thanks, Jesse.
Jul 30, 2011 Kathleenmanley rated it it was amazing
Stories were generally dark (alcoholism, suicide, etc), but truly compelling. Sometimes I wasn't really sure how the story ended or it was left up to the reader to decide, but there wasn't one that I could put down. This was a book where I almost missed a T-stop and had to keep reading in the parking garage before driving home.
An intriguing set of short stories. The title is apt, these stories were definitely on the dark side. Overall I enjoyed the book and am happy I read it. There were a few stories in the middle that I had a hard time understanding and getting through. The last story, however, made it all worth while.
Feb 22, 2008 Kilean rated it really liked it
Excellent. Reinforces my belief that anytime a good lit journal publishes books (in this case the superb Open City) that said books are usually excellent, and hard to find on the shelf. Everything I've read with Open City on the spine has been well worth the time, effort, and money. Twice over.
Jul 26, 2012 Philip rated it really liked it
This is a book with exciting short stories that tell much about small town New England as well as human nature in general. Brilliantly written. However, in the Stegner style, they are somewhat obscure to the point that I sometimes was left wondering. Still, a compulsively great read.
Apr 07, 2008 Beth rated it really liked it
Very well crafted stories with a bit of mysticism . . .an allorgorical town named Vaughn represents the wider world. Well worth the time spent reading these stories and I particularly enjoyed how the author incorporated natural elements in each story.
I think I let this book down...these stories are dense and big and demanding, a lot of them, and I don't think I rose appropriately to the occasion--felt like I mostly just skimmed along the surface of them rather than committing myself fully.
Jun 15, 2011 Cara rated it really liked it
Brilliant, haunting, terrifying - all of those are appropriate descriptions. She is my favorite piece in the collection, and the way that Brown captures doomed young love from a woman's perspective is almost errily perfect.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 19 20 next »
  • Other Electricities
  • Honeymoon: And Other Stories
  • A Collection of Stories
  • Other Kinds
  • In the Valley of the Kings: Stories
  • The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue
  • The Stories of Mary Gordon
  • Trouble: Stories
  • Distortions
  • We Love Glenda So Much and A Change of Light
  • In the Dutch Mountains
  • Like You'd Understand, Anyway
  • I Am No One You Know: Stories
  • Dark Roots: Stories
  • Through the Safety Net: Stories
  • Getting a Life
  • Half as Happy: stories
  • Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing

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