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4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  268 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
These prize winning stories confirm what readers of 'State Of Grace' and 'Taking Care' already suspected: that Joy Williams is a writer of unparalleled empathy and emotional candor, who can render the 'hopeless and uncomprehending love' between a little girl and her alcoholic mother, the panicky restlessness of a couple trying to outrun the exhaustion of their marriage, or ...more
Paperback, 168 pages
Published April 9th 1991 by Vintage (first published 1990)
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31st out of 104 books — 15 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,103)
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Apr 22, 2012 Mariel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: when there's nothing left to burn
Recommended to Mariel by: Gary Gilmore's eyes
There are twelve stories in Joy Williams's short story collection Escapes. My sincerest apologies from the bottom of the swampy cesspool that is my heart because I'm only going to write about a few of them. I might go back and add more later because writing not good enough Joy Williams reviews on goodreads is just something that I like to do. Okay! (Okay, some of you might be thinking "Just write something about all the stories in some neat paragraph thingy. No one wants to read that much about ...more
Dec 25, 2014 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jonathan by: Mariel
Shelves: favorites
One of my most beloved reviewers on this lovely site goes by the name of Mariel. Every single one of the pieces she writes and posts on GR is a thing of great beauty. If you have not discovered her yet, go click on the name in the "recommended by" tag on this review and read some of her work. If they don't make you immediately start adding things to your TBR list then there is something wrong with you...

Anyway. She has long championed Joy Williams and, because of her reviews, I got hold of T
Shock-shattered by the title story, I proceeded to move forward, in order, through the rest, which I never do (but I did recently also). I encountered parents and children and parents of parents, who are also children, of course. I read a story about a mother and father who are grieving over the accidental death of their teenage daughter. She died in her room, alone. The parents are with a daughter who didn’t die, auditioning private schools across the country from their home, into one of which ...more
Simon A. Smith
Joy Williams is always doing two or three or four (amazing)things at once. She's simultaniously enchanting, delightful, disturbing, strange and twisted, but this somehow always leads to a pleasurable experience and she is never a dull read. This is one of her darker, sadder collections in many ways, and that suits me just fine. I think I have a bit of a crush on this wacky woman.
Jul 18, 2014 Berry rated it really liked it
Escapes and The Blue Men were the best stories from a well-written, funny collection. I think Williams' stories can be like drinking a cold glass of ginger ale after reading too much, say, Lorrie Moore. Williams can be one hilarious writer and these two stories are the funniest of the bunch. Rot and The Skater are also very good. Since the book is on loan from the library I think I'm going to go upstairs and photocopy Escapes, just so I can have it until I buy a copy.
Dec 13, 2010 Beth rated it liked it
Shelves: library-book
Williams definitely falls into the Raymond Carver category but with a good female twist (and minus Gordon Lish's editorializing, making it not as minimalist as Carver). The functional alcoholics are often deadpan funny; the children are precocious and weird in way that you can't quite stop reading about them, especially since the adults seem to find them annoying, as well. I agree with other readers who found the first half of this book a bit better than the second. In flipping back through the ...more
Lady R.E. Miller
Dec 03, 2008 Lady R.E. Miller rated it it was amazing
"Clouds aren't as pretty as they used to be. That's a known fact."

One of the best lines from one of the best stories ("The Last Generation") from one of the best short story writers ever. (Sadly, Williams' novels just don't do it for me in the same way, though some people really like them.)

This collection, however, is excellent. There are, perhaps, one or two misses, but all the rest of them are pure beauty. I really like "The Skater" and the title story. And "The Farm," which may be in this b
Jun 28, 2009 Andy rated it really liked it
Recommended to Andy by: Meg Sefton
I used to enjoy listening to Joe Frank's show "Work in Progress" on NPR and Joy Williams' work reminds me a lot of those disturbing broadcasts. I liked the one about the gutted out decaying car in the living room and the husband who wouldn't talk to his wife unless she sat in that stupid car. Great stuff.
Jan 16, 2009 S. rated it really liked it
I'm embarrassed to resort to a dopey cliche but Joy Williams really has "the magic touch." I loved all these stories with the exception of "The Route."

Otherwise I can't help but mention that the drawing adorning the cover was an unfortunate choice. Really bad. Oh well, no reflection on the stories.
May 29, 2007 Tao rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lydia Davis, Joy Williams
I like this book.

I like the second story very much. I like the last story and many of the other stories.
Aug 18, 2008 Eddie rated it liked it
One story in this book is called "Escapes," about a young girl's love for her depressed, alcoholic mother (and her mother's love for her only companion, the girl). The language and storytelling are simultaneously tactful and childlike. There are marvelous little visions and surprising metaphors that manage to avoid being oppressive as an overt style or authorial voice. All except for the final paragraph, which becomes too elegiac and self-consciously wise. This is the second-to-last paragraph, w ...more
Jul 21, 2013 E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to E by: Francine Prose
I don't think Joy Williams is quite for me, although I thought this book of stories was quite good. The stories I didn't like weren't bad or badly written, but they were perhaps about people whose stories I didn't care much about reading (the story White is a good example of this). This is not the fault of Joy Williams.

I should also mention that I read Health first, and then I went back and read the whole book in order. I liked Health a great deal but I think it gave me some misapprehensions abo
May 23, 2015 Aneesa rated it liked it
Shelves: stories
My library copy is inscribed: "For Chris and Kipp (nice sound!) Joy Williams Chicago 1991."

It is possible I've read this entire book before and don't remember. Although many of the stories here confused and bored me, the title story is excellent and unique (especially compared to Room, which I recently read) in that it's from a woman's point of view remembering her childhood in a close and childlike way, but using high language. An example: "Lady... the magician said, and I thought a dog might
Trever Polak
This was less consistent than Honored Guest, but some of theses stories are even better than any from that book. "Health" and "The Last Generation" I particularly admired, as well as "Rot", "Escapes", "The Skater", and "The Blue Men." But "Gurdjieff in the Sunshine State" made no sense and "The Route" was pretty bad. I'm still going with 4 stars, though, because the good ones here were really good.
Gerry LaFemina
Feb 28, 2012 Gerry LaFemina rated it liked it
There's something to be said for the Gordon Lish influenced minimalism of writers of this generation, and Williams's stories are sparse, direct, emotionally objective in that way. Although I can admire the gaunt plots and characters who sometimes seem like they're standing aslant (or trying to stand straight in a slanted world), I've hit the place in my reading life where I want more....
Vincent Scarpa
Dec 28, 2012 Vincent Scarpa rated it it was amazing
On the cover, Harold Brodkey blurbs: "Joy Williams is now the most gifted writer of her generation." Hard to disagree with Harold Brodkey. So many fine stories here. Favorites include: "Health," "The Little Winter," "The Blue Men," and "Escapes." Also love "Rot" and "The Last Generation."
May 14, 2013 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Joy Williams is an amazing writer. This collection of a dozen short stories is another testament to her talent. I really enjoyed most of the stories in this book, but for me, the title story and the last story in the book, appropriately titled The Last Generation, were the standouts here.
Oct 23, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it
Some of the stories in this book, particularly the first half, were utterly brilliant in innovative form and startling content. And then there were some disappointments. Despite the unevenness, I had to admire the daring.
Sep 25, 2007 Janie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of impressionism
loved the first half of the book! connected less with the second half, but appreciated its experimental nature
Feb 11, 2008 Simona rated it really liked it
as with any collection, some stories were brilliant and perfectly crafted, others disappointing.
Heather Hasselle
Jul 23, 2015 Heather Hasselle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-stories

"Pammy coughs. She doesn't want to hear other people's voices. It is as though they are throwing away junk, the way some people use words, as though one word was good as another."

Throwing away words is one thing Joy Williams does not do. Every word is everything that's needed.

"Walter rubbed his head with his hands. He looked around the room, at some milk on the floor that Tommy had spilled. The house was empty except for them. There were no animals around, nothing. It was a
Sep 24, 2007 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: One that rarely says, "I don't get it."
"The smell of the meat loaf was now clangorous."
Adam Gardner
Dec 17, 2007 Adam Gardner rated it really liked it
It's weird when stuff happens.
Aug 14, 2009 Katie rated it really liked it
She is so fantastic.
Matthew Peck
Sep 27, 2013 Matthew Peck rated it it was amazing
"There was truly terrifying about girls on the verge of puberty, Gloria thought."
Now this is the kind of book that inspires me to write. Williams' first story collection was very good, but in ESCAPES her voice is more assured and unmistakable. Except for one brief esoteric joke-story called "Gurdjieff In The Sunshine State" (I had to consult ol' Wikipedia), the 11 stories are just about perfect. Centering usually on families affected by divorce, death, a move, or stepparents, and with alcoholic
Dec 05, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it
A solid book of short stories from Williams: there are the same kind of gorgeous, almost icy sentences that you'd expect, the kind of sentences that skip over the surfaces of life in a way that is arch but also kind of sad. There weren't many stories that really leapt out at me or that I remember all that clearly, but I sure enjoyed reading them. Williams is a bit of a strange writer, because I think narrative is a means rather than an end-- but this book is kind of fish and fowl, with an intere ...more
Jun 13, 2010 Spike rated it liked it
I looked forward to reading Joy Williams with great anticipation, but overall this was a disappointment. The stories simply try too hard. At times the dialogues sounds a lot like Don DeLillo, and this is where the material works the best. I am reading the Quick and the Dead next, thinking with her reputation she deserves a second chance.
Aug 05, 2014 Mary rated it it was amazing
Brilliant collection.

"The last generation has got certain responsibilities," Audrey said, "though you might think we wouldn't. We should know nothing and want nothing and be nothing, but at the same time we should want everything and know everything and be everything."

Dec 25, 2013 Myles rated it liked it
(3.4/5.0) You were talking about how depressing Dirty Realism is, and you were right.
Cynthia Sacks
Cynthia Sacks rated it it was amazing
Apr 28, 2016
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Williams is the author of four novels. Her first, State of Grace (1973), was nominated for a National Book Award for Fiction. Her most recent novel, The Quick and the Dead (2000), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her first collection of short stories was Taking Care, published in 1982. A second collection, Escapes, followed in 1990. A 2001 essay collection, Ill Nature: Rants and ...more
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“That's nice, isn't it?" Edith said. "That little kid is so trusting it's kind of holy, but if his trust were misplaced it would really be holy.” 2 likes
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