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Out of the Woods: Stories

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  418 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
Seven years ago, Chris Offutt made his literary debut with Kentucky Straight, a fiercely original collection that earned him not only critical praise but many prestigious awards.
The eight new stories in Out of the Woods mark Offutt's return to the form in which he first displayed his astonishing talent. Offutt, who "draws landscape and constructs dialogue with the eyes a
Paperback, 176 pages
Published February 22nd 2000 by Simon Schuster (first published 1999)
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May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
When I picked up this collection of stories by Offutt my mind went to the place of safety that the title implies. And then I remembered that this is Chris Offutt here and that it was highly unlikely that the eight stories would provide images of the better part of humanity overcoming its own condition.

Offutt writes without filigree, his sentences are raw and stories brutal. While violence makes a constant appearance in his works it isn't displayed with flash; violence is a part of the natural wo
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
More great stories about tough guys, ex-cons, and feudin' hillfolk.

After reading Offutt's first short story collection - Kentucky Straight: Stories - I hightailed it to the basement to build a shrine. (Oh, come on! It's only creepy when if I start filling it with hair clippings and the bones of small animals.)

The writing was just that good.

The stories in this collection are strong, though they don't have quite the same resonance as in the previous book.

From Two-Eleven All Around

I could tell wh
Diane Barnes
Aug 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read an article in Oxford American by Chris Offutt, and it was wildly funny and had a great recipe for pimento cheese. I made the pimento cheese which was really good, and got a book of his short stories from the library. This guy can give Flannery O'Connor a run for her money. His characters are Kentuckians who have left for one reason or another, try to make it somewhere else, and usually decide to go back home. There is some very dark humor in these stories, and also a great deal of hard ea ...more
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Well, that was a fun little quantum leap......into the lives of Offutt's characters; all of whom have left Kentucky for some reason or another. Some to return, some to stay gone. Dude can write. Dark, humor tinged, emotionally revealing tales that cut to the marrow of inner feelings.

His writing reminds me a little of a lot of folks I enjoy reading- primarily I guess these hit some of the same bases as Rick Bass. He opens with a Flannery quote which fits, but his style is much more on the surface
Sep 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It is not easy to go home again. It’s even harder to stay away. But often, when the traditions of the home hill mean more than anything, and when blood is stronger than law (and pride stronger than both), you should never have left at all.

Ok, this is good. No: this is really, really good. But I have reviewer’s block right now, which makes it hard to explain how good this is, so you’ll just have to trust me and find out for yourself. With near-perfect prose and very few wasted words (the last thr
Apr 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
This is a story collection to learn from. I love the lean prose and the way he gets inside the character’s heads. Every one of these stories kick’s ass, but I think he dropped the ball at the end of two. The last three words of “Target Practice” should have seen the delete key. The shooting scene with his father, and getting stuck in the briars on the climb up the hill are brilliant. “Two-Eleven, All Around” is great until the last couple of pages when he killed the dream. I think the idea was o ...more
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm tempted to complain that the book is too short. The eight story collection only amounts to 172p. and seems to end too soon. Brevity of Offutt's writing is a strength though; there is an economy to his storytelling. In some ways it is the same story over and over. The main character leaves his home state of Kentucky (they are all male), longs for the hills he left behind, and either does or does not return. Either way, he doesn't fit into wherever he's landed.

In the story "Barred Owl" two Ken
Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym)
Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-fiction
This is a quick read; I started it at the airport and finished it on the plane. Every story more or less covers the same ground: men who leave the Kentucky Appalachians and find they don't belong anywhere. They can't stay gone, but they can't go home again. Leaving their mountains is a sin against nature, but staying means living on a single hill in the deep woods, being known only by the people who created you and who will bury you.

I found this moving, a concept that anyone from a small-to-medi
Feb 27, 2016 rated it did not like it
Good thing it's a short book of short stories.
I read Offutt's novel "The Good Brother" and was impressed, so I thought I'd enjoy this little collection. I was wrong. The writing itself is quite good, but it felt like Offutt was writing the same characters over and over again, just giving them different names (and many of his characters either didn't have names or had only a last or first name) and putting them in different settings.
His stock character is a man from the insular and isolated Appal
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rural noir at its finest.
Sally Brooks
Jul 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
Awful stories with no endings. I live in Kentucky and everyone here is definitely not this darned depressed.
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Like a southern Raymond Carver, Offutt's stories are a glimpse inside the extraordinarily ordinary.
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best short story collections I've ever read. Offutt writes with a scalpel, cutting into you with simple, graceful words.
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
It's about a bunch of people obsessed with Kentucky.
Sep 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Out of the Woods by Chris Offutt. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1999.

“You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.”

I have no idea who coined this quote, but it is a common theme in the eight stories in Chris Offutt’s, Out of the Woods. All of the tales in this collection feature protagonists who are either in Kentucky or are from Kentucky or the Appalachian mountains. Similarly, each of the protagonists who have left Kentucky, experience some sense of
Scott Cox
Perhaps one way to characterize Chris Offutt's style is to describe him as the Kentucky version of Raymond Carver. His succinct writing style and his dysfunctional themes are similar, albeit with a southern focus. I really liked the ending to the Out of the Woods title story, "'Everything was the same -- the house, the trees, the people. He recognized the leaves and the outline of the branches against the sky. He knew how the light would fall, where the shadows would go. The smell of the woods w ...more
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
A collection of "You can take the boy out of Kentucky, but..." stories populated by characters (like Melungeons) you will not find anywhere else. Offutt's prose is spare and unadorned, his stories terse and direct. These characters are still stomping around in my head fully-formed, most of them making trouble for themselves and others. At times, he tells when he has already shown (the last three words of "Target Practice" have got to, got to go), but it's hard to nit-pick such a strong collectio ...more
Aug 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
A great little collection of stories about men longing for home, approval, and their proper places in society. The stories are written with few words, but convey a lot of feeling -- mostly loneliness and longing. "Barred Owl" (there was something even more emotionally telling about this story) was my favorite story of the bunch, closely followed by "Melungeons" and the rest of the stories. The men in the stories are MEN and are tough and have been thorough it. A very quick and enjoyable read.
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Offutt is down in the dirt. The narrators in his stories speak in sentences that cut into you. They're gruff and gritty, but always touch on piece of the human condition that we may have overlooked. These are all stories of homesickness, and the contrasting feeling of being trapped in our native lands. Even though that seems something we can relate too Offutt is touching on something few Americans have: hundreds of years connected one place.
Just what I thought after The Good Brother, the shorter format lends to sharper senses. Full of the codes of the hills, what sticks in your bones when you try to leave it, the good view of death (no fear of it but healthy respect). Favorite was “Target Practice,” where a man doesn’t have his father’s respect until he shoots him. Great stuff.
Austin Bunn
Sep 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
I never took Offutt as a teacher in school -- he seemed like a dry drunk and I've already have one in my life -- though now I wish I had. These Kentucky vignettes (go Cards!) are plain but solid in a way that not much is, in fiction, it seems to me. They read like gangplanks: always, some small swivel of consciousness in them, sometimes epiphany, in the final moments to let you off into the air. He's the real deal.
J.K. George
Nov 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-books
A unique and fascinating collections of short stories by Chris Offut, who writes as no one else does about Kentucky and the folks who populate the under classes. Don't miss the (I think) first one, which is a classic that describes family fealty, pick-up trucks, and funeral preparation at its most basic.
Nov 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southnoir
Short stories of Kentuckians traveling to other states and trying to survive. True stories, sad stories. Fun stories.From owl dressing to women's boxing. These country folks move about states aimlessly just trying to get through their days, drinking booze and hooking up. I enjoyed the straight narrow stories. Fun, fun.
Oct 28, 2008 rated it liked it
I liked this book for two reasons. One, it was a very fast read. Two, the short stories were mostly all very interesting and didn't require constant attention and reading. I was able to pick it up, read for 20 minutes, and put it down. Not bad, over all.
Feb 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Well done collection of short stories about people down onluck and living on the fringe of life. Stories about being in prison, drunk in bars, bar fights, the testing of egos and willpower against old grudges and misunderstandings.
Jan 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Some of these stories have many elements that I see in myself. Others make me long to know more about what happens to these characters. Murder and backwoods mayhem make this a fun read since the stories are short enough to read when you just need a quick dose of Appalachian weirdness.
Nov 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of short stories about people who've left Kentucky and typically not gone on to much of anything. Offut makes good characters out of ordinary people. It's hard for me to say what makes these good, but I read the book in two sittings, so there was something good in there.
Jul 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: shorts, south
Stories about young men from Eastern Kentucky escaping from somewhere to something. The writing style fits in perfectly with the themes of the stories - it is sparse and that's how the subjects are emotionally.
Mar 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Short stories all set in or revolving around characters from Kentucky. Not a place I often think about, so this book really gave me some new ideas to ponder. The writing was very sparse and simple and brought home the idea that where we are from shapes the people we become.
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Plot design in the title story 1 1 Aug 07, 2015 08:34PM  
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“Sometimes I don't think I've done anything to leave my mark in this world. I'm the kind of person the world leaves a mark on.” 9 likes
“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. —Flannery O’Connor,” 5 likes
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