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Mendocino Fire

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  184 ratings  ·  43 reviews
The triumphant, long-awaited return of a writer of remarkable gifts: in this collection of richly imagined stories—her first new work in twenty years—the master of short fiction delivers a diverse suite of stories about men and women confronting their vulnerabilities in times of transition and challenge.

Beginning in the 1980s, Elizabeth Tallent’s work, appeared in some of
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 20th 2015 by Harper
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3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  184 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Larry H
Dec 24, 2015 rated it liked it
I'd rate this 3.5 stars.

Relationships have the potential for tremendous complexities and complications, which is why they're such valuable literary fodder. In her newest collection of stories, Mendocino Fire , Elizabeth Tallent mines these challenges as they arise among family members, romantic partners, and others, and proves nothing is as simple as it seems.

Not every story worked for me, as I found that some of them tried to cram too many disparate ideas together, but there were some stories
Alise (Read Write Repeat)
Read my full thoughts on this and other books over at Read.Write.Repeat.

Tallent's collection reminded me of the beauty of writing and the skill needed to capture characters without the benefit of hundreds of pages of dialogue and decisions. Her writing is absolutely beautiful, if a bit mired down at times by the theoretical. There isn't a lot of action, but this isn't that type of book. To truly enjoy Tallent's writing, you have to be willing to devote some of yourself to it. This is one of thos
Isa Flores-Jones
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Natalie Serber
Apr 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
These are beautiful and complex stories. I listened to them while taking long walks and my plan is to go buy the book to read them again. The last story, particularly the last line of the last story....will stay with you.
Kristina Harper
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-fiction
These are beautifully crafted stories, each one a perfect slice of experience, each character carefully wrought, each setting almost photographically depicted. The last story, about the death of an estranged parent, was haunting. A remarkable collection.
Dec 07, 2015 rated it liked it
I would have given this book of stories 3 1/2 stars if I'd been able. Some of the stories are great. However, this was a difficult book to get through because the prose kept getting in the way of the story. The writing was generally beautiful, but I felt like the sentences were drawn up to make the reader think "wow, what a sentence" rather than move the story forward.
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Mendocino Fire by Elizabeth Tallent is a very highly recommended collection of ten short stories.

The stories capture relationships and lives during times of transformation with clarity and insight into the complicated emotional landscape of all relationships. Tallent explores relationships between genders, with an emphasis on female relationships, as well as broken marriages. Many of the stories deal with creative people, writers, artists, or ecological/environmental activists. Several are set o
Raven Haired Girl
Nov 05, 2015 added it
Shelves: 2015
Ten stories exploring the labyrinth and intricacies of relationships. Examining an array of issues plaguing relationships, Tallent left no stone unturned. Tallent demonstrates her understanding of diversity and imagination in each story.

Her writing style is distinctive, a mix of intimacy and distance as you enter her protagonists mind, along with a subdued stream of consciousness with part heart ramblings. This patchwork style permits the reader to empathize with characters stirring evocative m
Diane Webber-thrush
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I think this collection puts her in a league of short story writers with Grace Paley and Alice Munro. The sentences, the images, the characters -- so full despite the economy of language -- are really masterful. I'm so glad this was suggested to me.
Al Riske
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Elizabeth Tallent is an incredible storyteller. This long-awaited collection, like her earlier work, is vividly imagined and wonderfully nuanced.
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
I'd give this a 3.5. Complicated lives and relationships are the focus of these stories; an estranged daughter rushing home in a snowstorm to see her father before he dies; a child raised in uncertain circumstances who becomes an environmental activist; a couple whose new marriage falters because of a rug and a surprise announcement, a brief love affair between two writers.
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I want to give this book 3.5 stars. Intense, beautiful writing.
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The most affecting stories in this collection, to me, serve as a lyrical & compelling meditation on the ways that infidelity & divorce leave a mark - or even ravage - a woman’s headspace.
Nov 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: stopped-reading
too hard a read for me at this time; took too much work to get through a story.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some stories were interesting
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ugh. Maybe she has a better set of short stories or maybe Elizabeth Tallent has a great novel in her, but I stopped reading about two-thirds the way through this collection. She has real talent but a propensity to blow up perfectly grounded tales with hard plot twists and characters acting completely out of their norm.

Most of the stories are built the same way: humanistic initial set-up, realistic interaction between characters, sound observations about normal life for (usually) poor people, mo
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This collection of stories is like a gorgeous, masterfully-crafted sculpture that you find out is a cake, baked for you, meant to be eaten. Some stories you savor, some you devour, all are exquisite. I am so glad this book exists.
Simon Firth
Aug 09, 2017 rated it liked it
The stories here that are actually about people living in and around Mendocino County in Northern California - often of working class men facing challenges of their own making - are what made this collection worth reading. They remind you that living in a tourist Eden can be hard to accomplish gracefully if you aren't born into wealth or gifted with the right personality and education to make the best of the plate you are handed. A number of other stories in Tallent's collection, though, circle ...more
Kate Simmons
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Tallent writes, "though she rushes toward it fly toward him when he is already dead is the most desolating, and she has no means of ruling it out." And so it goes in Mendocino Fire. In each of these short stories characters face critical life moments while the writing keeps their motivations, emotions and personalities at arms length - if they are there at all.

There are two kinds of people in this book - career academics who seem to be in a constant state of emotional dissatisfact
Crystal ✬ Lost in Storyland
There is a sense of narrative distance that simultaneous makes me feel disconnected from the story yet draws me deeper into the characters' emotional conflict. The stories in Mendocino Fire don't give us direct insight into the narrators' minds. Instead, the narrators seem to observe the situations they find themselves in and comment on what is happening. The simplicity of the narration serves only to heighten the emotional tension by cutting away any excess that would take away from the story's ...more
Nov 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
It is rare for me to devour a short story collection as avidly as I devoured Elizabeth Tallent’s MENDOCINO FIRE. The ten or so stories all take place in or near Mendocino, California; the characters whose lives she invites us into are arrestingly different in age, class, sexuality. What they all seem to share is a certain kind of ferocity. What I adore about Tallent’s work is her laser-sharp insight into human interiors (thoughts, emotions, motivations), coupled with a language that is nuanced a ...more
Brett Beach
Feb 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I really responded to "Narrative"--but found the tone of some stories, like "Mendocino Fire" and "The Wrong Son" discordant: as if Tallent had been advised to add some action to her stores. On the opposite end, "The Wilderness" and "Briar Stick" were really difficult to get through--dense, heady, and at times obtuse. An uneven collection from a clearly talented writer (no pun intended, lord).
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I don't generally like short stories. They tend to feel the wrong length to me: too thin or crammed, too short to attach to or too long for their subject. I thought these were beautiful. Her characters are vivid, their flaws and foibles undeniable, but all treated with an uncynical humanity. She has a Woolfian manner of filling in worlds between the bits of a real-time conversation, which may not be for everyone, but is in my literary sweet spot. And, she has a knack for finding the perfect word ...more
Nov 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Too many stories in this collection are tedious, but I was particularly moved by "Mystery Caller" and "Nobody You Know." "Tabriz" is a surprise, and there's a poignant head-against-the-hospital-wall-while-talking-on-the-phone scene in "The Wrong Son" that stung me with its clarity and pain. I liked "Never Come Back," but I always feel like I'm doing it wrong when I don't connect to the title story, and "Mendocino Fire" made me tired.
May 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Short story collection, quite varied. Realistic style, often of Cali coast characters struggling - divorce, failed relationships, unwanted pregnancies, trouble academics. Style seemed a little jumpy to me, often, but I give author credit for range of concerns and courage to look at "ordinary" lives in turmoil.
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I read about half of these short stories. The ones in the beginning were ok, but they got worse and more tedious the farther I went into the book. None of the characters were likeable and often I had the feeling of "what's the point of this story?," and felt bored. Done right, short stories can be very powerful. I think these missed the mark.
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read for the phrases, sentences and paragraphs that conjure up whole worlds, and this book has a few: "her Depression-traumatized mother, who wrings the last minim of use from every frayed and stained and unraveling possession.. and "the strangeness of her family strikes her: the forlorn mutual incomprehension of delicate signals continually misinterpreted.." "
Ann Oliver
There were a couple of stories I hurried through and one I skipped after a couple of pages. I liked the Q and A style of the story “Eros 101,” and would often look back at the question before moving on to the next Q and A passage. My favorite was the final story, "Briar Switch", I'd like to read more about the family depicted.
Dec 25, 2015 rated it liked it
The prose is beautiful for sure, and there's a story about being a literature professor that just captivated me. But a couple of the stories were just too out of reach for me. If there were half stars, I'd give it 3.5. Worth a read for sure!
Sep 11, 2016 rated it did not like it
Mind-numbingly complex stories that lost me. Finished a few, skimmed others, and abandoned most. Disappointed, mostly in myself.
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Elizabeth Tallent's short stories have been published in literary magazines and journals such as The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper's Magazine, The Threepenny Review, and North American Review, and her stories have been reprinted in the O. Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories, and Pushcart Prize collections.

She has taught literature and creative writing at the University of California, Ir
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“This, the shift to self-delighting spontaneity, is what she’s always hoping for in her dealings with others: she sees that now,” 0 likes
“Sometimes driving is like this, a kind of consolation that’s taken your measure and suits you exquisitely.” 0 likes
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