Thunderstruck & Other Stories
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Thunderstruck & Other Stories

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  300 ratings  ·  92 reviews
From the author of the beloved novel The Giant’s House—finalist for the National Book Award—comes a beautiful new story collection, her first in twenty years. Laced through with the humor, the empathy, and the rare and magical descriptive powers that have led Elizabeth McCracken’s fiction to be hailed as “exquisite” (The New York Times Book Review), “funny and heartbreakin...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 22nd 2014 by The Dial Press
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Diane S.
There are a few things I ask myself after reading a book of short stories: are they complete in and of themselves and will I remember any of them? In this book I have to say, yes. Brilliantly constructed with memorable characters and plots, there were none that I actively disliked.

I found the first story, "Something Amazing", haunting. "Property" is an amazing story about the many different ways we grieve. "Juliet" is set in a library, which is where I work and so many of the comments were very...more
Rebecca Foster
It took me less than twelve hours to devour these luminous short stories of bittersweet losses and vengeful ghosts. My favorite story here is “Property,” which I had already encountered in The Best American Short Stories 2011. As a serial renter, I appreciated (and cringed at) the descriptions of the dump the recently widowed protagonist finds himself inhabiting: “The ad should have read: For rent, six-room hovel ... Or: Wanted: gullible tenant for small house ... Or: Available June: shithole ”;...more
Larry Hoffer
The short stories in Elizabeth McCracken's great new collection, Thunderstruck & Other Stories, may not leave you feeling all shiny and happy inside, but you will find yourself marveling at her writing ability, and how she captivates and compels you in just a few short pages. These are stories that look at the bleaker side of life, love, and relationships, but many pack a serious punch.

Some of my favorites in this collection are: "Juliet," which tells the story of a community rocked by a mur...more
Richard Kramer
Short story collections are often described as lovely, and if they're short story collections by women they're almost ALWAYS described as lovely. (A novelist of my acquaintance, much published, a lady, told me that with each new book the art department offers a jacket design of a woman, seen from behind, on a beach, whether there's a beach in the book or not.) Well, this is a short story collection by a woman, and it's not lovely,not at all. It's dangerous, partly because it says, in a handful o...more
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken is a very highly recommended collection of nine short stories. Oh my goodness - read this exquisitely crafted collection!

McCracken’s short stories in this collection include:
Something Amazing - one mother grieves the loss of her daughter years before while another has two delinquent sons
Property - a man moves into a rented house thinking it was furnished with the owner's discarded possessions.
Some Terpsichore - an abusive former lover is r...more
Diane Prokop
Brilliant, breathtaking, and unbeatable prose. McCracken at her finest. She constantly surprises and amazes me. A must read!
This is a marvelous collection, one of those books that make you wish that the author would just go sit down and write all the time.

Thunderstruck includes nine stories, each of which delivers a gut-punch of revelation. Readers familiar with McCracken's writing will know what to expect -- clear, impeccable prose in which someone's heart is broken, someone's inner life is imperiled, someone's loss is almost too much....but the unfolding of these troubles is handled with such empathy that they bec...more
Vincent Scarpa
An expert collection of stories—without a single false note from beginning to end—that explore and interrogate concepts of ownership, narrative possession, grief, and caregiving. McCracken's language, character rendering, and story architecture are unparalleled in this, her first collection of stories since 1993. More than happy to wait another twenty years for the next one if they're always going to be this good.

Don't just buy this book. Read it. Move it to the top of your to-read pile, just t...more
[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in the Goodreads First Reads giveaways.]

The back and inside jacket of this book has adjectives like "magnificent" and "exquisite" and "marvelously quirky," but I didn't really see much of that in the actual stories. I wasn't, I suppose you could say, impressed with the stories themselves, and the writing style was generic in that I felt I had read several other authors who write the same way. Nothing really stuck out to me as being "magnificent" or "ma...more
Greg Zimmerman
I just learned what many book nerds already know well — Elizabeth McCracken is a magnetic writer. Her new short story collection Thunderstruck & Other Stories is the first thing I've read by her, and I was enthralled. These are stories you'll want to slow down and read carefully because you'll want to underline/highlight just about every other line.

The stories themselves are...strange? They're about characters and places and things you'd probably never have any occasion to consider outside t...more

God, these stories are good. Most of them left me struck by a moment, perfectly rendered and described and many of them haunted by grief in various forms. If you haven't read anything else by McCracken, I highly recommend her novel The Giant's House and her memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination. I can't pick a favorite, so don't make me. Sometimes I get discombobulated by short story collections, after a while I get tired and they blur together, but not this one. In each one I f...more
Oh, what an exquisite collection of stories! For me, all of Elizabeth McCracken's work is affecting on an emotional level. Her story lines, characters, and even her sentences, grab you by the guts and do not let go. This goes straight to the top of my Best of 2014 list.
Charlie Smith
The original review can be read in its entirety on my blog, here:

I confess it: I am in love with Elizabeth McCracken.

Not my usual sort of love that results in flowers and candy and stalking and restraining orders; but the kind of love that is born of recognizing a like heart, a soul of such intense and exquisite grace and goodness that I cannot help but be awestruck and admiring, the kind of love that makes me want to be a better person so as to be worthy...more
Julie Ehlers
I wasn't sure about this at first. The first four stories were really sad, but to me they were nothing but sad, no mercy of any kind for the characters or the reader. I didn't know if I could take a whole book of that. But then the fifth story, "The House of Two Three-Legged Dogs," while still sad, displayed a little humor, and the one after that, "Hunger," though completely brutal, was also absolutely beautiful and true. The rest of the stories were like diamonds: hard, bright, stunning.
I was one of the lucky winners to get this as a Goodreads Giveaway. This is a wonderful collection. McCracken is a master storyteller with razor-sharp sentences. These stories are all devastating--murder, missing persons, dead or dying loved ones, injured children, grief, mourning, loss--but McCracken's unsentimental sense of humor combined with with an all-encompassing empathy for all of her characters, whether admirable or self-centered, lift these stories above what might sound from their des...more
*3.5 stars.
"The way the neighborhood kids tell the story, the coffin was lowered into the ground and Missy Goodby's grieving mother leapt down and then had to be yanked from the hold like a weed" (4).
"…and displays her forearms, which are captioned with strange anaglyphic sentences… (8).
"This is intolerable, he thinks. He's always thought of intolerable as a grown-up word, like mortgage" (9).
"…on the bus that says, across its forehead…" (9).
"…her bloodhound snoozes in the sun like a starlet…" (1...more
This is the kind of book where I have to first issue a disclaimer. If you're looking for happy, pleasant tales then do not read this book. At the same time if you want a maudlin tearjerker, you should go buy a Nicholas Sparks book instead. If, however, you want a grown-up book about real humans facing the seedier side of life then this is your book.

I don't try to summarize all the short stories included as that seems tedious. I'll try to give you some highlights. As I've said there aren't really...more
This is easily one of the best short story collections I've ever read.

Elizabeth McCracken's prose is just so on point that it makes you want to stop whoever happens to be nearby—stranger or not—and read them passages. Within the first few pages, I came across this gem: "The soul is liquid, and slow to evaporate. The body's a bucket and liable to slosh."

It's the kind of enviable writing that makes me almost angry that I never thought of such a simple, poignant metaphor myself.

The stories themsel...more
Patricia Baker
enjoy reading short stories. Elizabeth McCracken has written some good characters. it does seem like most of them have such sad characters and situations. some one is walking away, some is dead on the bed upstairs while a grandson is starving. I am helpfully in that this is a work of fiction and nothing like this exists in real life. did like the story about being sonless. there is not a good title for someone who has a child to die. it is a hole in the ground that you walk around in the dayligh...more
Zack Quaintance
So good.

Favorite Stories:

Something Amazing


Peter Elroy: A Documentary by Ian Casey

Susan Merrell
Beautiful, beautiful stories. Each one so completely original in concept and construction. I'll teach the story "Juliet" this fall but think the last lines from the story "Thunderstruck" are the embodiment of perfection: so dead-on I will never forget them: "He knew his own brain, what it could make up and what it couldn't. He looked at his wife, whom he loved, whom he looked forward to convincing, and felt as though he were diving headfirst into happiness. It was a circus act, a perilous one. H...more
Thunderstruck & Other Stories
I enjoyed this collection of short stories. McCracken takes individuals that are each dealing with some sort of loss or hardship - the parents whose daughter has a brain injury, the boy whose mother disappears, the man with cancer - and tells their stories. These are the types of people that we feel sympathy for, but don't always know how to act or what to say around them. She gives us a glimpse into their lives. Although they are sad, I actually found hope in th...more
Jenny Bhatt
Elizabeth McCracken’s latest is a short story collection that centers on the theme of loss. These are, often, losses of loved ones and the stories explore how people cope in various ways with the resulting grief and loneliness. The people impacted are beyond the immediate family, showing how we are all part of a larger whole than we might comprehend.

Having started her writing career with a short story collection, ‘Here’s Your Hat, What’s Your Hurry?’ in 1994 (one that, reportedly, allowed her to...more
I read a good number of creative short stories. By "creative," I usually mean falling somewhere on the magical realism spectrum. This book, however, was creative without any magic. The stories didn't seem to be about the typical real-life issues we often read about. I loved that about this book.

I found the stories to be written with an effective distance that I appreciated. If I remember correctly, only two of the stories were in the first person, and one of them was in the first person plural (...more
Heather H.
Elizabeth McCracken's collection of stories is one that I've been wanting to read for a long time. I had heard many great things about it, and after I finished, I know it's for good reason that I've been hearing all these wonderful things. She has so many fantastic lines, but one in particular resonated with me long after I had read the story. From "Property," : "The weight of Pamela's bag was like the stones in a suicide's pocket."

If you read one collection of short stories this year, let it b...more
I adore well written short stories. Each one is like dollhouse furniture...a small, well crafted treasure. So, I was thrilled when I was selected as a Goodreads First Reads winner for Elizabeth McCracken's newest collection Thunderstruck. These stories did a gorgeous job of revealing character gently and thoroughly. There was not one among them that was joyful or uplifting, it was a somber lot for certain. However, if you know that you are being taken to a dark and introspective place, these sto...more
My criteria for 5-star short story collections:

1) At least two stories must really dazzle me
2) I can at no point feel bored while reading any of the stories

"Thunderstruck," the title (and final) story, did the dazzling and heavy lifting. It's magnificent and I would read it over and over. "Some Terpsichore" and "Something Amazing" are also really, really good. So that's three of the nine that impressed me.

But I got bored during some of the others: "The House of Two Three-Legged Dogs" and "Hungry...more
Themes of loss, death, and afterlife abound in this short story collection from McCracken, a Boston native who set many of her stories in the Greater Boston Area. Despite being short stories, many of the pieces are of substantial length. For many of the characters, perception is far from reality. They lie to themselves or to others just to get through the day or whatever circumstances they are currently facing. They are fickle and petty. In short, they are very human, and eloquently rendered. Yo...more
Susie James
I won a copy of "Thunderstruck & Other Stories" in a Goodreads Giveaway. Some interruptions happened so I didn't finish all of Elizabeth's wonderful insights as quickly as I would have, but delays were a sweet helpmeet as it turns out. All of these stories are most beautifully crafted and what's more, have the heart and soul a reader relishes. If I were to pick out a single favorite, maybe it'd be ... aw, I would be lying. The way Elizabeth ends the collection -- with the title piece, about...more
The amazing reader's adviser, Ann Patchett, gushes about Elizabeth McCracken's writing skills. She also happens to be her best friend and only pre-editorial reader.

Her prose is spectacular. Her stories are good, and the story about the murdered library patron's impact on the librarians particularly held true to this Valley Cottage Librarian. Each was a bit dark, and somewhat weird, but human, beautifully written and compulsively readable.

I'm really curious about the rest of her work now.
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Elizabeth McCracken (born 1966) is an American author. She is married to the novelist Edward Carey, with whom she has two children - August George Carey Harvey and Matilda Libby Mary Harvey. An earlier child died before birth, an experience which formed the basis for McCracken's memoir, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination.

McCracken, a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, was born in...more
More about Elizabeth McCracken...
The Giant's House An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination Niagara Falls All Over Again Here's Your Hat What's Your Hurry The American Child

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