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Thunderstruck & Other Stories

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,862 ratings  ·  354 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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3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,862 ratings  ·  354 reviews

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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: shithole ...more
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Αυτό το βιβλίο το είχα καιρό στην λίστα μου. Δεν μπορώ να θυμηθώ ποιες ήταν οι αναφορές που είχα, τι με παρακίνησε να το βάλω στα μελλοντικά μου αναγνώσματα, και από που το βρήκα. Το μόνο που ήξερα όταν το ξεκίνησα είναι πως πρόκειται για γυναίκα συγγραφέα και πως πρόκειται για μια συλλογή διηγημάτων.

Το εξώφυλλο μαρτυρά τις προθέσεις και το περιεχόμενο: literary fiction, μάλλον από κάποιο άρθρο των New York Times. Δεν έπεσα έξω και σίγουρα κάτι ήξερε ο πρότερος εαυτός μου, τότε, παλιά, που το επ
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 mur
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Μερικούς μήνες πριν, πέτυχα κάπου μια πρόμο-καμπάνια της Penguin για διηγήματα, όπου για ένα διάστημα λάμβανες στο μέηλ σου ένα διήγημα από κάποια συλλογή που επέλεγαν οι αρμόδιοι. Κάθε διήγημα "έσπαγε" σε 4 μέρη κ έπαιρνες ένα την ημέρα. Όταν γράφτηκα έλαβα το πρώτο μέρος του "Juliet" απ'τη νέα συλλογή της Elizabeth McCracken, την οποία δεν γνώριζα μέχρι εκείνη τη στιγμή κ μου άρεσε τόσο πολύ το διήγημα που γρήγορα παρήγγειλα το βιβλίο για να διαβάσω κ τις υπόλοιπες ιστορίες της κ αποδείχτηκε ό ...more
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 abse
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.
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: short-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.
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: female, library, shorts, 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.
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
Cheryl Keller
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
To make a sweeping generalization, I enjoy collections of short stories. This is especially true for YA authors whose full-length novels I might not read because of instalove or love triangles or just general disinterest in the subject matter, but I find that you can really see a writer's craft shine when they're restricted to a shorter format. There's no time to develop an elaborate love triangle or parallelogram or whatever, Plus, I find that short stories tend to end with a punch.

Other reader
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...
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: short-stories, audio
listened to this on audiobook and had a very hard time focusing on the stories. it could be me, it could be the quality of the writing. i wasnt a fan tho
Sep 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
The tone of these stories all feel very different to me, though I can't put my finger on why. Most are in third person, and they dance around the central events via omniscient narrator who teases you with slightly more information and/or speculation than the characters themselves are capable of. Maybe it's the characters themselves who are a bit different--middle and lower class kids and adults of varying mental health, European wanderers who were bougious, tourists, or run down, the largely unn ...more
Sep 30, 2014 rated it liked it
I am trying to decide if I am not a fan of short stories or if these short stories didn't work for me. I think it is a mix of both. It seems with short stories, I don't retain the story nor message. It may be because the writer doesn't have time for in depth character and plot development. I believe that is the shortcoming in McCracken's stories. In general, I and many other readers found the stories, characters and themes depressing; filled with sorrow, lack of hope, death, bleakness.
Steve Petherbridge
Aug 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended by a Goodreads friend, what struck me about this collection was the originality and how each story shone with quality. There is the expected quality prose from a writer building a good reputation, but, the overall composition skilfully displays the human effect of disappearance and death within the family, the tenderness and care of strangers and family members to others in trouble, compassion, the challenges of parenthood and the difficulties posed by life. Many stories do not end c ...more
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Around the Year i...: Thunderstruck & Other Stories, by Elizabeth McCracken 1 7 Jul 08, 2018 10:08AM  
  • The UnAmericans
  • Sweet Talk
  • Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing
  • The Isle of Youth: Stories
  • The Heaven of Animals
  • Spectacle: Stories
  • Three Scenarios In Which Hana Sasaki Grows A Tail
  • Man V. Nature
  • Honeydew
  • This Is Not Your City
  • American Innovations
  • Wild Milk
  • A Different Bed Every Time
  • The Witch And Other Tales Re-Told
  • Girl Trouble
  • The Emerald Light in the Air
  • Safe as Houses
  • Fools
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
“Whatever you have lost there are more of, just not yours.” 2 likes
“I’m so sorry,” he said, because after Pamela died, he promised himself that if anyone told him the smallest, saddest story, he would answer, I’m so sorry. Meaning, Yes, that happened. You couldn't believe the people who believed that not mentioning sadness was a kind of magic that could stave off the very sadness you didn't mention – as though grief were the opposite of Rumpelstiltskin and materialized only at the sound of its own name.” 1 likes
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