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Mad Hope

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  74 ratings  ·  18 reviews
In the stories of Mad Hope, Journey Prize winner Heather Birrell finds the heart of her characters and lets them lead us into worlds both recognizable and alarming. A science teacher and former doctor is forced to re-examine the role he played in Ceauşescu’s Romania after a student makes a shocking request; a tragic plane crash becomes the basis for a meditation on motherh ...more
Paperback, 223 pages
Published April 1st 2012 by Coach House Books
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4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  74 ratings  ·  18 reviews

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Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it

this book is about...people.

i mean, is that facile, or what??

but it's not untrue. these stories are about the human spirit and the universality of the human experiences of life: death, parenthood, relationships, coming of age, pregnancy, and about the making of unexpected connections with others.

but no one wants to read a book report like that - it makes the book sound all puffed up with self-importance with a pipe and elbow patches.

and this is not that kind of book. this is a sparkling kind of
Rebecca Rosenblum
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It's not very surprising that *Mad Hope* is as good as it is--Birrell's first collection of short stories, *I Know You Are but What Am I?* was similarly stellar, and the first story in this collection won the Journey Prize. Plus Coachhouse Books doesn't publish just anything.

The stories are subtle, weird, and challenging. Birrell pushes the realist mode about as far as it will go without becoming something else. The characters in the stories are emotional, funny, and definitely human, but the pl
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-it
A thoroughly satisfying collection of stories from Heather Birrell. I bought this book at the Coach House Spring 2012 Launch Party after hearing Heather read from "My Friend Taisie".

Mad Hope is a well-curated collection with stories that connect when reading them together, although of course they are all very different characters and plots. I find it's essential for me to read story collections that have some tie that binds then all together (usually thematically), otherwise I'm left disoriente
from publisher

Read 10/1/12 - 10/6/12
3 Stars - Recommended to fans of short stories that take a look inward and aren't always obvious
Pgs: 223
Publisher: Coach House

One of the things I like most about reading short story collections is the hunt for the connections. Sometimes, the authors make it extremely easy and connect the dots from story to story for you - every story might contain the same narrator (Jesus' Son); every story may take place in the same town (Volt); every story is a fantastical f
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Hanne by: The Next Best Book Club
Shelves: short-stories
"He understood the power of naming, the great mess of meaning that trailed after a word like cans clanking along behind the bride and groom's car"

There is not much i can say to do these stories justice. Anything I say will be like a badly tuned piano being 'played' by my 3-year old niece. But I'll try, and I hope that by mentioning how much I loved this, and using a lot of quotes, some people will get curious enough to pick up a copy.

This book is a collection of eleven beautiful gems of stori
Michael Bryson
Aug 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Michael by:
Shelves: short-stories
Apr 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
But maybe, just maybe, Geraldine thought, there was something she could take away from all this. A piece of Jerome to put in her pocket. She wanted to find a way to tell him this, but they were locked into something now; she had to carry on. ‘But you’ll never succeed in pleasing everybody,’ she said.

‘Nah, maybe not.’ Jerome made his hand into a neat pistol and shot twice, up towards the heavens. Bam, bam.

Maybe aiming at God, maybe saluting Him.

‘But I got mad hope,’ Jerome said. ‘Mad hope.’


Davin Allan
Oct 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Review from

This short story appeared in Heather Birrell’s 2012 collection Mad Hope (Coach House Books), a title that I now realize is intentionally camp. I talk about now because in the past, I had vehemently dismissed the entire collection for my superficial political scepticism, but fortunately for me, last year our site crashed and the article went along with it. But I realize now that my explosion of excitement and anger was as quixotically inconsequent as the conversations t
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this collection of stories very much. It far exceeded my expectations mainly because, unlike my experiences with this genre, I could read Mad Hope without the unpleasant feeling of disconnection. Although the stories and their characters are very diverse, many of them share similar themes - death, loss, traumatic events, yearnings, contemplation of the past. I liked that the stories were so real, emotional, and raw, yet conveyed much hope to me. Not in the mollycoddling everything's-go ...more
Jul 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Mad Hope pleased me with its near-absence of overlapping characters, thought the three stories in the second part are a significant exception. I like reading stories where each story belongs to a different world. Like many of the story collections I have read lately, parenthood and the loss of a child (real or wanted), constitutes a significant theme. I have too many stories on the subject of abortion and miscarriage to want to read more of them, so I was glad to see some stories that at least h ...more
Matthew White Ellis
I loved it! Each and every character bursts off the page, each with their own quirks and histories! Complicated, funny, and sad all at once! Love the collection!

The collection still holds up as one of my favourites!
Yulande Lindsay
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
It took a while to get into these stories, but by the fourth story, I was hooked. The stories which cover a range of subjects: past tragedies, the camaraderie of the pregnant, motherhood and guilt. She's a compelling writer is Heather Birrel and worth exploring further.
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: awesome-writing
Started out a little bit slow but by the end really had me thinking, and invested in the characters. Not the usual genre I read but worth it. Some of the phrases were so beautifully crafted that I had to go back and read them again and whisper them so I could feel them on my tongue.
Jun 20, 2015 is currently reading it
Excited to read this book because its author will be my writing instructor this summer!
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic story telling. Sometimes makes you flinch and have to look away but you can't help but turn back and keep reading. And those frogs, oh man.
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing

I will never look at frogs again in the same way. The characters in the stories remind me of people I know or have met. Maybe I have...
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Oct 08, 2012
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Laura Frey (Reading in Bed)
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. 4.75 stars. 4.99 stars. I don't know. This was fantastic. Full review to come.
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Oct 27, 2012
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Heather Birrell is the author of two story collections, Mad Hope (Coach House, 2012) and I know you are but what am I? (Coach House, 2004). Her work has been honoured with the Journey Prize for short fiction and the Edna Staebler Award for creative non-fiction, and has been short- listed for both National and Western Magazine Awards. Birrell’s stories have appeared in many North American journals ...more
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“It's like you live your life not understanding anything at all and then you find out there's a whole new subset of things you don't understand.” 3 likes
“although we all have dark bruised spots on our pasts that never seem to heal. Instead of fading, they pass through the colours of the rainbow, shining dully, differently, on each and every moment in our lives.” 2 likes
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