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The Shell Collector: Stories

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4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  2,324 ratings  ·  312 reviews
The exquisitely crafted stories in Anthony Doerr's acclaimed debut collection take readers from the African coast to the pine forests of Montana to the damp moors of Lapland, charting a vast physical and emotional landscape. Doerr explores the human condition in all its varieties-metamorphosis, grief, fractured relationships, and slowly mending hearts-and conjures nature i ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 15th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jessica
Man, this guy can write like he's an octogenarian. Bastard. Seriously. Like an octogenarian of the Wallace Stegner-class. Who does he think he is, writing timeless stories that will hold up way past the superficial, self-conscious Study of Self dreck that seems to stream from writing workshops these days. If I have to wallow through one more witless and hapless protagonist who washes his or her grief in some kind of pop culture balm, I will merely think of one of Doerr's stories to refrain from ...more
Tara
This is one of my all-time favorite short story collections. I bought the paperback back when I had very little income. I was browsing in the bookstore (my cheap entertainment) and found this book. I read the first sentence: "The shell collector was scrubbing limpets at his sink when he heard the water taxi come scraping over the reef. He cringed to hear it . . ." and I just had to buy it. The only new book I had purchased for some years. But I couldn't pass it up, and wanted to own it.

It did no
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Teresa
Maybe not all the stories in this collection are as brilliant as "The Caretaker" and "Mkondo" (a perfect ending to the book), or maybe it only seems that way because these two set the bar so high. In any case, all of them are beautifully crafted and lovely to read, some taking you to remote worlds you most likely will never go to yourself.

Along with the much larger theme of the force of life in both nature and mankind, other subtle threads run through each story, such as different manifestations
...more
Laura
3.75 stars. These stories all share a common thread, which is that they reveal the power and beauty of nature and the relative frailty of human beings. Every time one seemed to fall into a pattern or became a bit predictable, the author turned it on its head and pulled the rug out from under me. I really enjoyed that.

His writing calls to mind Colum McCann, and if you haven't experienced his stuff yet, you might want to think about it. Doerr's prose is spare and precise. He doesn't waste time ge
...more
Larry Bassett
I was lead to The Shell Collector directly by the author’s current best seller All the Light We Cannot See. On a certain level, the books have similarities: blindness and nature and objects with magic properties. But I found my interaction with the two books to be very different. With Light I was easily drawn in by the language and the story whereas with Collector I was immediately put off by the story, confused by the details and uncertain where I was being led. The language was similarly mesme ...more
Emily
Jul 03, 2007 Emily rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Jen, Trev, and Sharon definitely
This is a collection of short stories from a pretty young author--really beautiful stuff. Sharon, this is the book I told you about with the story about the hunter's wife who touches the dying animals to feel their pain and their life. It stems from there to get even more dramatic and metaphysical but seriously.....the stories in here absolutely changed me and made me want to become a writer. There's a story in here about a homeless man who cuts out the hearts of beached whales and buries them a ...more
Libby
This collection of short stories is lifeless. It's everything I hate about writing: boring stories that take place in "exotic" locations, featuring "interesting" charcters, written by a 29 year old white guy invested in authenticity. Uggh.
Nathaniel
This collection starts strong, then it starts to seem like this guy's instrument doesn't have too many strings and then he tries to write about Africans.

The first three stories are memorable and rewarding, pleasantly removed from day-to-day circumstances and romantically committed to unlikely pairings and second shots--"So Many Chances" I might read again just for pleasure. But, Doerr is hung up on female characters who aren't human (or female)--one dimensional fantasy objects for boy poets who
...more
Tim Storm
Dude can write. True, his tone is often a bit detached. Even though he's capable of great imaginative riffs, his voice doesn't vary much from one story to the other. He doesn't inhabit the voice of his characters. In the first two stories, the protagonists are called "the shell collector" and "the hunter." Not too intimate.

But his narration, which almost always carries with it a sort of omniscience even when he remains in 3rd limited, allows him to do some great things with landscape and with p
...more
Alan
review will follow - bit hectic at the moment (in a good way)...

still haven't got time to do it justice, and had to take the books (this one and Winter's Bone) back to the library, so I'll try and sum up what I remember feeling about this book.

It is exquisitely written, full of nature - fish,sea, mountains, animals feature heavily. There is some humour but maybe the stories take themselves a little too seriously, and not normally my kind of stuff - a blind shell collector becomes a sought out he
...more
Maya Lang
I've recently been experiencing short story fatigue (with my own shorts more than anyone else's). Then along came Anthony Doerr. If I tried to describe any of his plots to you, you'd conclude that they sound absurd. My only conclusion is that Doerr has held onto that impulse that gets us to tell stories in the first place. These are not quiet, formulaic stories told in a certain hushed workshop voice of restraint. These are stories of the improbable, stories that break the mold, imbued with magi ...more
Karen
Wow. What a great collection of stories. It's one of those books that I keep getting absorbed in, to the exclusion of what I probably ought to be doing. My kids keep asking me about the stories now, because I keep talking about them.

Even though there are similar themes to the stories, each one seems fresh and unique. The writing is beautiful, and the stories are magical. Those parts that are tragic are written with care, so the reading is not painful, but provides insight. And I feel uplifted by
...more
Jennifer
Nov 26, 2008 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Erin, Pat
Recommended to Jennifer by: Trina, Dana
Short stories sometimes don't engage me enough to finish the collection, but I loved these moving, memorable stories that dealt so eloquently with recurring themes: loss, searching, nature, taking chances, empathizing, understanding, and the mysteries of life, love and nature. They seemed each so distinct and yet together created an almost tangible mood of mystery, nature, wonder. Bravissimo!
Scottaggart
Wow, wow, wow! They say you should only write about what you know, well this guy must know everything. Amaaazing writer!
Rosa M.
I bought this book because of its amazing reviews, boy was I disappointed. Yucko! I found the stories very blah and depressing.

The imagery and writing is quite beautiful, it should be called poetry. The beauty of the scenes were ruined by really dreary plots. Couldn't finish it.
Jessica
These are some of the most unique and imaginative stories I have ever read. Some of the stories read more as fables or maybe magical realism. The three star rating is more of a reflection of my tastes and prejudices than any fault on the part of the author. I tend to be disappointed in short stories as a rule and in this case the subject veering into strange and unbelievable territory made it less appealing to me. Also the narrative style is a bit detached and I never felt very invested in the c ...more
Cheyenne Blue
A wonderful collection of longish short stories. The loose theme that weaves this collection together is water, the sea, love of nature, and finding your place in life, even if it means severing ties with those you love.

Standouts for me were "For a Long Time This Was Griselda's Story" (best title ever!) about two sisters: one runs away with the metal eater from a carnival, the other stays at home. Both found their happiness and made peace with their decision, but the stay-at-home sister feels th
...more
Judy
The Shell Collector: such a simple life of peace, but that peace was shattered so quickly by people wanting something from him
The Hunters Wife: Not sure how I feel about this one. Usually I enjoy the mythical and esoteric type of tale, but this one was strangely cold and dispassionate.
So Many Chances: beautiful story of a young starting to find herself. Incredibly written with wonderful word pictures painting the scene. Loved this story

For a Long Time This Was Griselda's Story. Set over a time s
...more
Stephen Gallup
In recent years, the short story has fallen on hard times. As evidence of that, I need only point to the websites of literary agents, which indicate that the only kind of writing less in demand is poetry.

I'm sure someday the genre will regain its rightful place, but until then rare collections like this one do a fine job of keeping it alive.

If I have any bone at all to pick with this one, it would just be the title. "The Shell Collector" is the opening story, and a wonderful story indeed; but it
...more
Mckinley
If you enjoy short stories try reading this. I found this a delightful collection of stories whisking me from beach front Kenya to frozen pine forests of Montana and beyond. Nature plays a key role in each piece. His characters are richly developed. They deal with issues ranging from dealing with fractured relationships to self-discovery. And many have a mystical connection to the earth. In this way, Doerr weaves together the human condition and the miraculous wonders of nature. His characters i ...more
Lia
Boy. This man has some serious chops. He wields words with expert grace, care and touch, serving up some of the best writing I've had the pleasure to read. There were moments after certain passages that I'd have to pause and sit with the beauty of his writing.
This collection for me was much less about the stories and plots and so much more about the actual writing, the language used (and used so well). There were some gems of stories, to be sure, but there was something of a theme of man chasin
...more
Sarai
Beautifully written stories showcasing nature and exploring its influence on different characters. The sky, the sea, and everything in between comes alive. Not all of the stories were standouts to me--the two short stories that won awards for example were not my favorites by far--but I really enjoyed The Caretaker and Mkondo.

Doerr has a definitative writing style, every sentence feels like it was carefully crafted, and he does a great job of really describing a setting. That said, the sentences
...more
Elizabeth
The only reason I came to read this collections is because I am on an enormous waiting list for Doerr's new book. So I thought I'd read something from his catalog of works. This is Doerr's first publication. It is a collection of short stories. And if this is an indication of Doerr's writing prowess, I am eager to read more.

The stories collected here are the type of stories that have a beginning, a middle and an end. You get characters that are well-rounded and you get resolutions that are satis
...more
Matthew
Utterly fantastic in every regard. Every story is truly special, and many will stay with you long after you've finished them.

Doerr's order here, too, is especially spot-on. The title story hooks you in and "The Hunter's Wife" and "So Many Chances" keep the momentum going. Unlike so many short sorry collections that fizzle out, this one roars to the end. "Mkondo", the final story, is my personal favorite. It is so good, in fact, you will hang on every word, not wanting it to end.

Also impressive
...more
Megan
I liked his more recent collection, Memory Wall, better, perhaps because the stories in Shell Collector were a bit more bizarre, or perhaps because his writing became refined over the years. However, even these stories from early in his career were well written, innovative and full of intriguing metaphor. At times dark, at times whimsical, at times even downright uncomfortable, these stories certainly took me to a place I wouldn't have gone on my own. Some common threads in his work seem to be h ...more
Katie
What a mess! Prose so self-consciously "lush" as to be ridiculous, characters both unbelievable and uninteresting, stories utterly predictable in the most irritating possible way--by which I mean that if you think to yourself, "What is the most irritating development that could possible come next in this plot?" then that is almost guaranteed to be the thing that happens next.
Jolie
One of the better short story collections I've read in a while. Gorgeous writing; a bit too much fishing (maybe that's not quite fair, but I'm just not that interested in fishing). Loved the variety of settings and subjects. I highly recommend this one.
Nerissa Brisco
A beautiful romp in the wild

Stories that transport one to into nature's far flung and glimmering outposts. A quietly dazzling book to read and relax with.
Erika
May 10, 2015 Erika rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2015
Like "all the light we cannot see", this book has beautiful and tight writing. No word is wasted. I don't usually like short stories but these feel complete in their short format. All stories about finding and losing that which is important. A great collection.
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Anthony Doerr is the author of five books, The Shell Collector , About Grace , Memory Wall , Four Seasons in Rome and All the Light We Cannot See . Doerr’s fiction has won four O. Henry Prizes and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, and The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. He has won the Barnes & Noble Discov ...more
More about Anthony Doerr...
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“Memory gallops, then checks up and veers unexpectedly; to memory, the order of occurrence is arbitrary. Winkler was still on an airplane, hurtling north, but he was also pushing farther back, sinking deeper into the overlaps, to the years before he even had a daughter, before he had even dreamed of the woman who would become his wife.” 2 likes
“Between them was fifteen or so feet of frozen space, bounded by his window and hers, but it was as if the windows had liquefied, or else the air had, and his vision skewed and rippled and it was all he could do to put the Newport into gear and ease forward to let the next car in.” 2 likes
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