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The Coast of Good Intentions: Stories

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  152 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Michael Byers' collection tells graceful tales of achingly unresolved lives on the Pacific Northwest coast. Here are ferry workers, carpenters, park rangers, adolescents leaving home and retirees coming home again. Crab factories, cranberry bogs, the fog-shrouded shore, the Seattle skyline -- these are the settings for quiet but astonishing emotional epiphanies.
Paperback, 176 pages
Published April 29th 1998 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 1998)
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In the very first story I read: "I was drunk but not drunk enough to say what I wanted, that we don't live our lives so much as come to them, as different people and things collect mysteriously around us." and I realized that as I read Michael Byer's works I had come to them and they were collecting mysteriously in my memory.

His stories are filled with the compassionate appreciation of an older soul, and images that distill to fine liquor intoxicating the reader. In the story "A Fair Trade," on

Nicole Rea
I loved this so, so much. It's an incredibly quick read, so I think I might have to digest it again in a sitting on some rainy or snowy weekend so I can pick up on all the subtleties I'm sure I missed in the first go.

I thought it was good, but not great, until I got to the story "In Spain, One Thousand and Three." It's told from the POV of a guy whose wife played the cello, but died, and he was pretty much completely obsessed with her for their two years of marriage so now he's coping with that
It occurs to me that when I look through books at libraries and bookstores, I'm looking for a certain type of prose: I want the work to read beautifully, observantly of our human thoughts and emotions, and with an unexpected bit of brilliance in certain lines. I want unexpected wit, and a respect for people's thoughts.

All of that is present in The Coast of Good Intentions. These are stunning stories set in Washington state, and I only mention the setting because I'm thrilled finally to find sto
John Luiz
When this collection came out, much was made of the fact that Michael Byers was just 28. It wasn't just the fact that a writer so young could demonstrate such talent, but also that he could write so movingly and insightfully about older characters trying to make sense of their lives after retirement or in the wake of a divorce after a decades-long marriage. At 50, I'm not quite there yet, but I can say I was equally impressed with how well he captured the mindset of people well past his age when ...more
Miss Walker
Summer Book #14 A collection of short stories centered on the Pacific Northwest, this book was a great read, especially because I read a good chunk of it while waiting for a ferry in Friday Harbor. Drinking coffee. And possibly knitting. I could try to be a little more pacific northwest, but I left my fleece jacket at the campsite.

Like any collection of short stories, there were some that I could do without, but there is one that that will stick with me. "A Fair Trade" starts out slow, recordin
The back-cover blurb makes a big deal about how young Byers is (was), and as beautifully written as most of these stories are, some of the false notes are probably because of his age. This is a subtle point, but he gives his older characters sentiments that, while well imagined—that is, what he supposes someone who had those experiences would feel—those sentiments don’t have the edge of authenticity, they don’t feel like someone lived those experiences. I felt this way about some of Ethan Canin’ ...more
May 2010

Nowadays, youth in publishing is hardly worth crowing about (Dear Christopher Paolini: We won’t get fooled again), but definitely not something to ignore, either. But I’m only 23, so what do I know? Still, the blurb on the back and some of the reviews seem to be excited about Michael Byers’ youth (he’s “only twenty-eight!” Or he was, when he published this), so maybe it’s something worth noting. Or not. Or is it?

Whatever the case, and whatever his age (then and now), Byers is a damn fine
I'm not sure I can adequately explain what it is about this book that resonated so deeply for me. There was such an understated, almost mundane quality about the characters in the stories and their lives and the situations they find themselves in that was just so note-perfect. The tone of the stories, the flow of them, reminded me a bit of Richard Yates' Eleven Kinds of Loneliness. These are just normal people going about their everyday lives, but that doesn't mean that there aren't these little ...more
Jul 30, 2007 Will marked it as to-read
I've only read one of the stories in this book and it was wonderful. The story, "Shipmates Down Under," was anthologized in the Best Short Stories of either 1997 or 1999 and is a strange and beautiful exploration of marriage and parenthood (two things of which I have no experience, but it's all very convincing). I can't recommend this story highly enough, and if anyone has a copy of this book I'd love to borrow it. Just wanted to put this review up there so that other short story lovers can go s ...more
I forgot it was a collection of short stories. Byers has an distinct way of sending the reader down a path with a character that is often lonely, unremarkable, yet poignant. The stories began to feel like repeats as the next story would display yet another person waiting for some-thing. Not to say that the characters are written as desperate or pathetic; they are completely unremarkable and simply learning to live in their own world. The male characters are more dimensional; the females seemed a ...more
I bought this book because the author married an old friend of mine. He has a deft touch with language. The stories were emotionally deep and i felt sated upon finishing most, enough that i kept looking for his next book and purchased his first novel, Long for This World upon publication.
I'm friends with Michael Byers, having studied with him at Pitt, so there's no way I can write a fair review. I did, however, really like this book. The quote "There is beauty in precision" comes to mind when reading Byers: he has a gift for the perfectly placed detail. Also, I love the way his complex sentences form and unspool, carrying the reader along.
Pretty remarkable story collection. Each one unfolds slowly and ends up catching the reader in the gut with the struggle of his characters and the moments when they reveal the most about themselves. "Shipmates Down Under", "Wizard", and "In Spain, One Thousand and Three" are very polished and amazing stories.
A delightful read, lovely prose, not an earthshattering book but very satisfying. Short stories need to create a vivid world quickly, and he has done a very credible and creditible job. My favorite story is n Spain, ONe Thousand and Three'--a very moving portrait of a man grieving after his young wife's death.
Really enjoyed reading this book of short stories that I just happened to pick up at a used book sale. I lived in Washington State as a young child and this book made me nostalgic for a place I hardly remember. Amazing the writer was so young when he wrote this. I'm very impressed.
I can't remember details, as i read the collection earlier this year. i do recall thinking that there was great topical versatility amongst the stories, as well as skill at creating very diverse characters. Padmini had recommended this to me.
A beautiful collection, wide in its range and emotional scope. My favorite story was "Shipmates Down Under." I admired how Byers wove the (fictional) Australian novel into the family's story as subtext. Also, Byers writes children well.
Byers writes beautifully. I'm not really a short-story reader, but he really put a lot of humanness into his characters - they were very easy to relate to, and to imagine. I would be interested in reading his novel at some point.
I don't usually like short story collections, but this one kept my attention. The stories all take place in various locations of the Pacific Northwest. The stories are all different, and I liked most of them.
Notable mostly for the stunning "Shipmates Down Under," which I found in "The Best American Short Stories, 1997," this collection is good overall. I still hope Byers becomes Mega-Famous someday.
This was one of the 1999 RUSA Notable Books winners. For the complete list, go to
Kept waiting for a story that would grab me and it didn't happen. Seems like he thought up some promising characters and didn't get to know them very well.
I'd give two or three of the stories in here 5 stars, but as a collection the last stories seemed to be in the book just to fill out the collection.
I didn't finish it, but it could have been because I had to return it. I'd try this one again; it looks good.
A nice collection of short stories. Overall, well written and engaging from the git-go. Quick read.
Debra B.
Very good character development. Interesting characters and settings.
It's better than living on the Coast of Bad Intentions.
Myke Reiser
Sep 18, 2007 Myke Reiser rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: YOU
Shelves: iownthisshit
Fucking amazing.
Tina Moradillo
Tina Moradillo marked it as to-read
Nov 19, 2014
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Michael Byers is the author of the story collection The Coast of Good Intentions, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the acclaimed novel Long for This World, winner of the First Novel Award from Virginia Commonwealth University. Both were New York Times Notable Books. A former Stegner Fellow and Whiting Award winner, he teaches at the University of Michigan."
More about Michael Byers...
Long for This World Percival's Planet: A Novel War Law: Understanding International Law and Armed Conflict Who Owns the Arctic?: Understanding Sovereignty Disputes in the North Intent for a Nation: What Is Canada For?

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