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The Dream Life of Astronauts

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  518 ratings  ·  110 reviews
For readers of Tom Perrotta and Lorrie Moore, this sharp and affecting short story collection takes place in and around Cape Canaveral, from the 1960s to the present day, showcasing Patrick Ryan s masterly understanding of regret and hope, marriage and family, and the universal longing for love.

The Dream Life of Astronauts balances heartbreak with wry humor as its characte
ebook, 272 pages
Published July 5th 2016 by The Dial Press
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Larry H
Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
So let me make one thing clear before you make the decision whether or not to read this collection of short stories based on the title: despite taking place at or around Cape Canaveral (in some cases simply in the same Florida county), the majority of these stories have nothing to do with astronauts.

While a few have the space program as a narrative thread within them (or at least mention something space-related in passing), for the most part, these well-written stories are about people who find
"My grandmother's having sex with that driving school man."

"Uh-oh," the bird man said.

Mrs. Kerrigan's grip went slack, causing Steve to tilt to one side. "Do you even know what that means?" she asked Becca.

"There's a thing, and a hole, and the thing goes in the hole ---"

"Never mind! I know you're going through a hard time right now, Becca. I think maybe you're angry at your parents for not staying together, and you're angry at your mother for travelling so much."

"She's not traveling. She moved t
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger. So said Stephen King. I am a lover of short stories and I’ve found that that kiss can be anything from a brief (too dry to care), sloppy (too undisciplined) or intense (need a bit of distance).

Patrick Ryan gets the formula just right. He’s a natural-born storyteller and I loved every single one of these nine touching stories. All of them take place around Cape Canaveral as public enthusiasm for the NASA space program was dying down. And e
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A stack from the short story collection/shelves that I’m re-visiting and re-reading before I take them away....not rated individually, no “review”/ comments, as I’m reading them in a very non-linear way.

I used to call these “waiting room books,” and I’m surprised by how many of these stories I remember reading the first time around...almost a short story timeline/madeleine. Which makes it so hard to part with books....

The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen
Where The Money Went - Kevin Canty
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Enjoyable collection of short stories that draw the reader in from the start. I like how some of the minor characters return as the main character in later stories, usually taking place years down the road. Nice way of tying some of the stories together. Wonderful description too. Not a collection to read if you want only happy endings, however. But at least they're realistic endings.
Bonnie Brody
Aug 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Patrick Ryan's collection of short stories, 'The Dream Life of Astronauts', takes on several universal themes. The characters he evokes often appear in more than one story, usually after a passage of time. All of them are searching for ways to find more meaning in their lives, often sliding backwards as they try to go forward. The protagonists are often troubled by addiction, family dysfunction, divorce or loneliness. The one thing they have in common is that they all live in Florida near Cape C ...more
Mary Lins
Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: complete
“The Dream Life of Astronauts”, a short story collection by Patrick Ryan, captured me with the very first story. “The Way She handles”, is set in the summer of 1973 during the Watergate hearings. I remember it well and appreciated all the references, and I even felt a little rush when the love song from “The Poseidon Adventure” was mentioned and I knew what that was (“The Morning After” by Maureen McGovern”) and then spent the rest of the day trying to get that tune out of my head!

Most of the st
Kasa Cotugno
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The area around Cape Canaveral, consisting of several long islands, contains a population not all connected to the Space Center, but affected by its proximity in different ways. I was reminded of stories set in and around, say, Las Vegas, in which people leading ordinary lives cannot help but be associated with the Strip even if they never set foot there.

Each of these 9 stories presents a character recognizable in their human qualities. Ryan's writing style is smooth, his situations, distinct.
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I was a goodreads first reads winner of "The Dream of Astronauts:Stories.This is a book of short stories. Most take place in Florida in and around Cape Canaveral.Most of the stories take place around big historical moments, such as Watergate, In 1969 at the time of the rocket sent up for the moon landing. the Challenger explosion. A teenage boy watched the arrival of his hippie uncle and the slow break up of his parent's marriage. A foster girl lives on a farm around the time of the first moon l ...more
Helen Marquis
Jul 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent collection of short stories with a common thread of the Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The characters are all drawn from the lower rungs of success, with failed careers, marriages and relationships, populating the pages, set against headline news events such as the Watergate scandal, and more poignantly, the Challenger disaster.
Ryan's characters are all instantly memorable, despite their seemingly normal existences, due to his incredibly evocative writing style. He picks
Aug 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was an unusual and entertaining book of short stories. They all take place in the Cape Canaveral area of Florida in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Most deal with dysfunctional families and I enjoyed how some of the same characters would show up in a later story under very different circumstances.
The stories immediately grab your attention. Here are 2 of my favorite opening sentences:
“We never would have laid eyes on Ike if his dad hadn’t gone to sleep on a pair of railroad tracks somewhere in Jack
S. Shirley
May 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful collection of funny, insightful, and sometimes heartbreaking stories. Ryan has a knack for describing the ordinary in a way that is anything but. His prose absolutely sings and his love for his characters shines through, even when their behavior isn't all that lovable. A brilliant read–I couldn't put it down.
Mar 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Sympathetic stories about disappointed but surprisingly expectant people, most of whom have a new relationship come into their life that ultimately leads to nowhere but more disillusionment. The person who appears to be their ticket out of their life refuses to take them, or turns out to be even more broken than they are. The setting for the stories is the space program in Florida from the 60s to the present day. Set against a horizon lit up by stunningly powerful rockets and spaceships able to ...more
Natalie Serber
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
These stories will impress you with their scope, humor and humanity. I felt as if I've stood in line at the market with the characters. The Dream Life of Astronauts was a pleasure all the way through.
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fast read. Storytelling that feels like the work of someone who really understands the craft. Many of these stories ruminated on the domino effect of cruelty - how one hurt makes the victim lash out at another. I liked that. My favorites were the title story, which was really clever and suspenseful, and then the last - You need not be present to win, which was the most emotionally resonant.
Dede Ward
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved this! Great voices, great humor. Captures a time in America I remember well. I don't typically read short story collections, but I found myself looking forward to each new story. I will say there is a bit of unevenness here--some of the stories were standouts, and one or two were not. But that seems to be par for the course with short story collections. I love humor and pathos in equal measure and this had both.
Thor Balanon
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More 4.5. A surprisingly strong collection of lives that never really take off but like the Challenger, are glorious in its mess.
Feb 12, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I received a free copy of this e-book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

I requested this book because the blurb said it deals with people and situations around Cape Canaveral in the 1960’s. I am a gigantic space nerd, and I love anything that has to do with the space program of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. This short story collection sounded perfect. I began reading and found myself wanting to put it down forever at about 20% done. I pressed on, because I knew I ha
Eric Anderson
Jun 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ten years ago I read Patrick Ryan’s extraordinary debut novel “Send Me” which focuses on different members of the Kerrigan family and their individual stories over a number of years. It builds a rounded understanding of how families divide, re-bond, change and grow over time. In his new book of short stories “The Dream Life of Astronauts” two stories include Frankie, a vibrantly original personality and one of the sons from the Kerrigan family. Other members of the family appear as well, but in ...more
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really solid collection. Ryan writes well from the POV of the elderly. I liked the second half--beginning with "Fountain of Youth"--more than the first, particularly "Go Fever," "Earth, Mostly," and "You Need Not Be Present to Win."

Some people complained that there weren't enough astronauts in the collection, but I thought there were plenty of astronauts, that it was perfectly adequate on the astronaut front. Perhaps these readers should read a nonfiction book that is actually about astronauts.
Dave Purcell
Jul 17, 2016 rated it did not like it
I made it through the first two stories, which were like a cross between Family (minus cute Kristy McNichol) and Afterschool Specials (minus the absurd humor..."I can fly!"). Completely puzzled by the glowing reviews. It's hard not to get annoyed when this is so pedestrian and my wife, an unknown writer, has so much better material that is undiscovered.
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book from Goodreads for a review.

I read this book, but I can not say I enjoyed it. The stories were all very dark and they all left me feeling sad. I thought these were astronaut stories, but they are stories that are set in the Cape Canaveral area with some loose ties to NASA.
Maybe other people will enjoy this book, but it is not a good match for me.
Aug 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Some really great short stories, with a real sense of place. I was distracted by how some of them intersected but not all of them. I hope the author writes a novel, there seemed to be larger stories to tell.
Lucy Bledsoe
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Stunning stories. Compelling, unique, and beautifully written. Ryan's ability to write from so many diverse points of view blows me away. Besides, I LOVE the title of this collection.
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Confession time: my fellow readers will tell you that I don't really like short story collections. I don't know what it is, I've just never really cared for them. I like some of the biggies, sure: George Saunders, Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman. But for the most part I just prefer getting lost in a novel. The Dream Life of Astronauts hasn't changed my mind, exactly. But it's made me feel bad for throwing so much shade the way of the story collection.

I decided to read this book at this moment for a
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: I received this book for free through a Goodreads' giveaway.

I'm hit or miss with short story collections. Either I speed read through the stories without paying too much attention, or they immediately draw me in so I'm entirely engrossed. This short story collection fits the second scenario. I took my time reading the stories, so I could try to find the connections between the different characters (some of the characters are featured/mentioned in multiple stories) and to let the word
Doctor Moss
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
This is a collection of nine somewhat intertwined short stories, set around Cape Canaveral, Florida around the heyday of the space program. Ryan sticks close to reality, while moving and living through its fringes just enough to provide a sense of exploration but with the occasional thud of a reality-check.

Ryan has an easy touch. These are not lighthearted stories, nor are they heavy. But they do get to the soul of the characters involved. The title story traces an encounter between a gay teenag
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
These stories felt like they'd been written a few decades past, during an age when more people read short stories (and more people read). They were efficient spotlights on a few characters--different ones in each story. There was always a corner turned or lesson learned. The only astronaut was sleazy in a great way, a little broken and non-heroic. Ryan is able to write about kids, which is a special talent (I gather he writes some YA books). You know, it just came together for me. This is a YA s ...more
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Sometimes you pick up a book and the reading is so easy it almost feels like cheating. This is how I feel with this collection. The writing is effortless, the characters natural and the stories grounded. Despite the title, the stories are not about astronauts - in fact only a few deal with the space program at all. But the characters live in that world. A world where one man can go to space, while another struggle just to live.

I didn't know that the stories would take place over the years or th
Maureen Fischer
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have no interest in astronauts, but read this story collection because Ann Patchett recommended it when she spoke at Talking Volumes. Most of the stories were set on or near Cape Canaveral or Merritt Island during the 70s and 80s, but few depicted astronauts. Fine with me. The book saddened me because it was so true to life. Not easy for a writer to pull off. Most of the time things didn't turn out well though his characters yearned for change, groped for connection or suffered due to characte ...more
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