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Thunderstruck & Other Stories

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  2,096 ratings  ·  386 reviews
From the author of the beloved novel The Giant’s House—finalist for the National Book Award—comes a beautiful new story collection, her first in twenty years. Laced through with the humor, the empathy, and the rare and magical descriptive powers that have led Elizabeth McCracken’s fiction to be hailed as “exquisite” (The New York Times Book Review), “funny and heartbreakin ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 22nd 2014 by The Dial Press
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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Richard Kramer
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Short story collections are often described as lovely, and if they're short story collections by women they're almost ALWAYS described as lovely. (A novelist of my acquaintance, much published, a lady, told me that with each new book the art department offers a jacket design of a woman, seen from behind, on a beach, whether there's a beach in the book or not.) Well, this is a short story collection by a woman, and it's not lovely,not at all. It's dangerous, partly because it says, in a handful o ...more
Diane S ☔
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
There are a few things I ask myself after reading a book of short stories: are they complete in and of themselves and will I remember any of them? In this book I have to say, yes. Brilliantly constructed with memorable characters and plots, there were none that I actively disliked.

I found the first story, "Something Amazing", haunting. "Property" is an amazing story about the many different ways we grieve. "Juliet" is set in a library, which is where I work and so many of the comments were very
It took me less than twelve hours to devour these luminous short stories of bittersweet losses and vengeful ghosts. My favorite story here is “Property,” which I had already encountered in The Best American Short Stories 2011. As a serial renter, I appreciated (and cringed at) the descriptions of the dump the recently widowed protagonist finds himself inhabiting: “The ad should have read: For rent, six-room hovel ... Or: Wanted: gullible tenant for small house ... Or: Available June: sh ...more
A quirky and aromatic collection of short stories that I wish I liked more. McCracken centers her writing on themes of loss: a young academic who grieves the death of his wife, a sharp grandmother who loses her son and attends to his daughter, a married couple whose daughter partakes in risky behavior that results in an end to her innocence, and more. McCracken approaches death from several different angles, each one a unique perspective that pulls you into the characters' lives and stories.

Larry H
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
The short stories in Elizabeth McCracken's great new collection, Thunderstruck & Other Stories, may not leave you feeling all shiny and happy inside, but you will find yourself marveling at her writing ability, and how she captivates and compels you in just a few short pages. These are stories that look at the bleaker side of life, love, and relationships, but many pack a serious punch.

Some of my favorites in this collection are: "Juliet," which tells the story of a community rocked by a murder,
Vincent Scarpa
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An expert collection of stories—without a single false note from beginning to end—that explore and interrogate concepts of ownership, narrative possession, grief, and caregiving. McCracken's language, character rendering, and story architecture are unparalleled in this, her first collection of stories since 1993. More than happy to wait another twenty years for the next one if they're always going to be this good.

Don't just buy this book. Read it. Move it to the top of your to-read pile, just t
Sep 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-reads
Exceptionally good. Stories informed, one guesses, by McCracken's experiences of grief, and her family's travels, but each very much a fictional creation. Sentences that made me slow down to appreciate every word choice and McCracken's shrewd and pungent sense of humor. I was most strongly affected by by the second ("Property") and the last ("Thunderstruck") but there isn't a weak story in the collection. It's cliche to say this but they reminded me of what (short) fiction can do, and that short ...more
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Before jumping in to this marvelous collection, you should know something that is not at all apparent from the book jacket’s text: these are stories about loss and grieving.

The losses range from tragic (a six-year old girl lost to lymphoma, a boy kidnapped by a creeper on a bus, a young man suddenly widowed fifty years too soon) to violent (a woman murdered in her home by a stranger, another woman frightfully abused by her controlling husband), with a heavy dose of brutal family matters (an abs
Jul 12, 2016 added it
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This book rounds out the two weeks I’ve spent exploring short story collections, and it’s a great note to end on. McCracken has a way with descriptive language; her characters and places are easy to imagine. Information in the stories is doled out in crumbs and each that you feast on makes you greedier for the next. The stories have a way of unraveling in both a surprising and natural way. Many of the stories have definitive conclusions. This isn’t a
Julie Ehlers
I wasn't sure about this at first. The first four stories were really sad, but to me they were nothing but sad, no mercy of any kind for the characters or the reader. I didn't know if I could take a whole book of that. But then the fifth story, "The House of Two Three-Legged Dogs," while still sad, displayed a little humor, and the one after that, "Hunger," though completely brutal, was also absolutely beautiful and true. The rest of the stories were like diamonds: hard, bright, stunning. ...more
Diane Prokop
Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, breathtaking, and unbeatable prose. McCracken at her finest. She constantly surprises and amazes me. A must read!
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stories
Very enjoyable and well-written! I usually don't care for (extremely) plot-driven fiction, but these stories have a subdued, tranquil vibe in spite of all the drama. Went down like little birth control pills. ...more
Apr 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in the Goodreads First Reads giveaways.]

The back and inside jacket of this book has adjectives like "magnificent" and "exquisite" and "marvelously quirky," but I didn't really see much of that in the actual stories. I wasn't, I suppose you could say, impressed with the stories themselves, and the writing style was generic in that I felt I had read several other authors who write the same way. Nothing really stuck out to me as being "magnificent" or "ma
Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014-books
This is a marvelous collection, one of those books that make you wish that the author would just go sit down and write all the time.

Thunderstruck includes nine stories, each of which delivers a gut-punch of revelation. Readers familiar with McCracken's writing will know what to expect -- clear, impeccable prose in which someone's heart is broken, someone's inner life is imperiled, someone's loss is almost too much....but the unfolding of these troubles is handled with such empathy that they bec
Jun 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
This collection is about the many ways we lose people - and how we deal with our grief. My favorites were "Property," "Juliet," and "Something Amazing."

Some lines I liked:

"Whatever you have lost there are more of, just not yours."

"The dead live on in the homeliest of ways. They're listed in the phone book. They get mail... Their beds are made. Their shoes are everywhere."

"'You can tell more from dentures than from years of diaries,' she'd said then. 'Dentures do not lie.' She herself threw every
Helia Rethmann
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Lovely, lovely, lovely and sad. DO NOT READ IF YOU CONTEMPLATE SUICIDE. All the stories here are about loss, grief, dying, or having to choose between terrible choices. But consider how McCracken draws people: "He, thirty-nine, red-headed, pot-bellied, long-limbed and beaky, a rare and possibly extinct bird", or, how a neighborhood looking for a mission woman, reflects: "The neighbors wanted posters for every person they lost, even themselves. Missing: former self. Distinguishing marks: expectat ...more
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very good audiobook. The reader, Erin Yuen, does a fine job. All of the stories are so strong in this format, but the final one, Thunderstruck, is just devastating - and fantastic.

Oh, what an exquisite collection of stories! For me, all of Elizabeth McCracken's work is affecting on an emotional level. Her story lines, characters, and even her sentences, grab you by the guts and do not let go. This goes straight to the top of my Best of 2014 list.
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shorts, female, library, us, twitter
Usually when I read a short story collection I look back later and think, 'what was that story about again? I don't remember that story'. That did not happen with this collection. Each is a clear, strong, fully-formed tale, a tiny novel packed with detail (maybe too much for some). I have no idea how someone does this. ...more
Mar 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
I made it to the story where the author uses transgender people as the oh how weird / unique moment and then I stopped. I'm exhausted with the other'ing and lack of humanity. Do better. Develop a trans character and stop using them as props- interact with trans people in a meaningful way. ...more
Briane Pagel
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
It wasn't until the last, eponymous, story in this collection that I realized the theme that strung them all together, so I guess I might be slow on the uptake. The stories in Thunderstruck are about how we deal with loss, but the loss comes in all kinds of different varieties.

It's a bit of an uneven collection, despite all the praise it has received, and many of the stories feel like they miss the mark a bit. Reading these stories is something like hearing someone talk about a great book and f
Leslie Lindsay
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wry, quirky, and askew stories of unique perspectives on looking at the world through not rose-colored glasses, but cracked, psychedelic ones.

This time of COVID-19 has me reaching for books that at just a little off-color, a little surreal, and a lot mordant. THUNDERSTRUCK (Dial Press, 2014) is darkly insightful, compassionate, and yet...there's just enough that makes the world feel like it's tilting on its side.

When I review a collection of stories I've often thinking: 1) do they somehow a
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Why have I never heard of this woman? She's great! Her stories are a combination of of pathos, underhanded humor, tenderness and irony, which keeps the primarily tragic material from being too depressing. A really talented and intelligent mix.

"Then the movers arrived, two men who looked like middle-aged yoga instructors. The boss exuded a strange calm that seemed possibly like the veneer over great rage. He whistled at the state of the house, and Stony wanted to hug him."

"Then Gabe was behind me
Cheryl Keller
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I loved this book of short stories and I want to read more of Elizabeth McCracken's writings. These stories grip you from the beginning with the energy of McCracken's prose and the vividness of the characters and settings. These characters have "been around the block" and know a thing or two about some of the darker forces in our world, including various forms of poverty and of uncontrollable tragedy and the particular kind of grief it brings.

But every sentence pulled me into the next one, her
Shari Strong
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In these nine stories, McCracken explores the terrain of failed, missed, and nearly-missed connections. People go missing, become ghosts of various sorts, while those still alive, left behind, or feeling alone or isolated try to make sense of what happened, what was lost, what they have left. These stories incorporate some of my favorite elements in short fiction: humor, terrible events, sad and hapless narrators, hope even where none is merited, and deft observations about human behavior and th ...more
Rachel Pollock
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Honestly, I appreciated all of the stories except for the titular one, which struck me as less-well-crafted than the rest. Many more hits than the one miss. If you like short story collections, this is a good one.
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: story-collection
This story collection had been on my TBR forever. I had heard plenty of good things and it did not disappoint. Smart, crafty and slightly bent. Just my cuppa...
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow, I loved this so much more than the novel of hers (Bowlaway) that I finished recently.
Michelle Good
Nov 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Excellent short stories.
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i really enjoyed how all of the characters & stories in this feel real - how absurd they are, just like humans, & how tender & ugly they are - just like humans.

(my friends scandalously gasping "IS THAT FIFTY SHADES????" when i was reading this book also made it memorable for another reason)
Brutally honest and slicingly sharp, right to the heart of the human condition.
I'd forgotten that it's hard to listen to short stories - you want to listen to each piece in their entirety.
2019 Extreme Book Nerd Challenge - Book with an author or title with Elizabeth, Eliza, Liza, or Liz.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads database.

Elizabeth McCracken (born 1966) is an American author. She is married to the novelist Edward Carey, with whom she has two children - August George Carey Harvey and Matilda Libby Mary Harvey. An earlier child died before birth, an experience which formed the basis for McCracken's memoir, An Exact Replica of a Figme

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