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Rutting Season: Stories

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  119 ratings  ·  30 reviews
An intimate, sparkling collection of stories by a debut writer about girls behaving badly and families on the brink of collapse.

In these lucid, sharply observant stories, Mandeliene Smith traces the lives of men and women in moments of crisis: a woman whose husband has just died, a social worker struggling to escape his own past, a girl caught in a standoff between her mot
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published February 12th 2019 by Scribner
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Audra (Unabridged Chick)
She did not understand his words; she couldn't even attach them to the conversation they were having, but, like an animal, she understood the tone. Not forgiveness, not liking, but a kind of permission.

The jacket description doesn't do this volume of nine short stories justice. The stories aren't of "girls behaving badly", like we're reading about out-of-control tweens or reckless-on-spring-break coeds. The central figures in these stories are individuals crushed under intense familial pressure:
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-reads, netgalley
Thank you to Scribner via Netgalley for my advanced digital copy of this book!

Rutting Season is a collection of nine short stories dealing with people in times of crises. In one a teenage girl finds herself in a standoff between the police and her mom's boyfriend, in another a little girl is trying to keep her mother from selling her off in a money making scheme. My favorite was the first story, "Mercy", about a woman whose husband has recently died. It then seems as though death is following he
The blurb mentions "in the vein of Marilynne Robinson."
This is not like Marilynne Robinson.
It's not even in the same universe as Marilynne Robinson.


The stories are all surface and no depth. In cases where I've encountered this before, like Vampires in the Lemon Grove, there was beautiful prose to keep me entertained. Rutting Season is missing the beautiful and poetic writing. I immediately forgot what the first story was about before starting the second story. Characters are stereotypes mor
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
I'm probably not a person to read short stories and I should stop trying to do so. However I thought the premise sounded like something I would enjoy and while it was written well I just didn't gel with the stories ...more
Stephanie Kerr
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Rutting Season is a collection of short stories. I received the book through Goodreads Giveaways. It is about a variety of heavy topics from dealing with the loss of a spouse to the difficulties of working in Child Protective Services.

The topics covered in the stories were, for the most part, interesting. I think there was some real potential in the stories. I would have liked to have read full novels from some of these stories. However, I was rather disappointed in the characters. I didn't fi
Feb 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
Reading the description, I was so excited to read this book. The stories seemed like they would be interesting, poignant takes on life. What I expected was not what I got.

The reviews on here aren’t that great, but I’m disappointed with what’s being left out of them, namely Smith’s handling of race, class, gender, and otherness in her stories, all of which appear numerous times. Each one of Smith’s marginalized characters appears as a classic stereotype, and only fill the role expected of them in
An unpleasant book about unpleasant characters with some questionable race stuff and multiple instances of cruelty to animals and murder of animals.
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
I was the lucky recipient of an advanced uncorrected proof of this title, thanks be to chance.

Regrettably, most of the stories in this collection did not appeal to me as they were all about people dealing with one of the lowest points in their lives up to the point we meet them in. It was too much "down" for me to handle.

That being said, I found the first story, 'Mercy', *very* moving. Centered around a woman whose husband has recently unexpectedly passed away, the manifestations of her sorrow a
Erin Eileen
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Although I love short stories, it's rare that I read an entire collection from start to finish - usually I dip in and out, finding the stories I love and discarding the rest. Not so with Mandeliene Smith's Rutting Season. Although this isn't a collection of linked stories -- each character/setting is different -- I found this book really hard to put down. There is an urgency to these stories, a sense of life-or-death importance, that left me actively worried for, and thinking about, the people i ...more
Emily Jang
Sep 07, 2019 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this collection of short stories, because I think Smith has plenty of interesting material, language, and personality to offer. But as a collection, this reads like pieces written in a creative fiction class bound together. Some pieces were genuinely interesting (I learned quite a bit about horses in the opening piece, "Mercy"); the ones involving guns felt absolutely absurd (inadequate character development to convincingly match the severity of violence, in "Rutting Seas ...more
Matt Graupman
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If I had to describe “Rutting Season,” Mandeliene Smith’s debut collection of short stories, in one word, I think that word would be “authentic.” There’s a wide variety of characters and experiences in this book but each one feels nuanced and real. Smith is a very perceptive writer with a direct, big-hearted style; her stories have an Anne Patchett-y quality, which is a very good thing to have. I hope Smith releases another collection soon.

“Mercy” - A stressed-out widow must reassess h
Mar 07, 2019 rated it liked it
By the halfway point of this collection, two stars was about all I could muster for it. However, the last few stories really hit the mark for me. Throughout Rutting Season, I found the subject matter of the stories to be compelling, and in the best instances the author seemed to disappear within the work and let the characters live on the page. When the stories fell short, I got the impression that Mandeliene Smith might have lived among people similar to her characters, but observed their exper ...more
Apr 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I gave this 3 stars because I think it's my interpretation of the stories that has me not really enjoying them. I loved the way the first one started - and then expected something more at the end which just didn't appear. It's like she's starting you on a path, and then you need to finish the story yourself. Certainly open to interpretation, which for some reason I am not understanding. I don't think it's necessarily the authors fault. I had trouble with this sort of thing in college - I almost ...more
The Earls List
Mar 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
A strong start for a debut author. Madeleine Smiths writing style is raw and abrasive and I adore it. She waded into topics with gritty underbellies like I’ve rarely seen.

Vaguely reminiscent of “Only the Animals” I found myself thinking about and sharing her short stories with those around me, using them to process what my mind could not fully comprehend on its own.

A book to parade to those whole can stomach the aggressive and slightly off key approach to some of societies more veiled topics.
Apr 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Just like the seasons I had my favorite, and then the other ones felt lack-lusting. Some of her details were rooted in some form of racial and class biases; however, some of her details were sharp. She includes a lot of backstory and exposition when the narratives didn't really need them, and most of her endings felt completely out of the blue because she didn't properly present the present characters motivations because they were too much rooted in the past. ...more
Kathleen Gray
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Short story fans know that sometimes the best way to read a collection is to dip in and out- not to read the whole book at once. That's true for this slim volume of seven stories. Smith's characters are women (or girls) who are dealing with challenges and loss. Some of this feels detached, which is no doubt due to the writing style. At the same time. however, there are some terrific lines. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. Choose this one for a debut by a writer to keep an eye on. ...more
Feb 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
Not quite what I was expecting, though the stories drew me in each time. A quick read with strong racial themes and often left me contemplating the human condition. Even what appears to be mundane has depth under the surface.
Jul 22, 2019 rated it liked it
These are all short stories and a few relate to each other. It wasn't my favorite but it was okay and made you think. It might be I just got done with a really good book so this did not measure up to that one. ...more
Pjo Riley
Oct 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorite-fiction
When you find yourself holding your breath while reading a story, you know it's good. I'm thinking here of the story titled "Siege." But others too. These shorties are satisfying and filling, easily read in brief sittings. I will look again for Smith's fiction and know it's worth buying. ...more
Aubrey Byron
May 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. As with any collection, some stories are stronger than others. But the book seems to build momentum as it goes, and some are so captivating, I was sad for them to end. Here’s hoping to seeing more of this author soon.
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Beautiful and savage and real and magical, like the ring you get from a machine when you’re small, then find ten years later and throw away, but something about it having gone from treasure to junk only because you have grown makes you cry.
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
About once a year I read a collection of short stories. In the past week, I have read two collections of short stories. I enjoyed Rutting Season but I don’t understand why short stories are always so depressing.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Aug 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Perhaps this wasn't the right time, living through my own crises. So much tension, so much violence. ...more
Jan 31, 2020 rated it did not like it
By the time I finished reading this book, I had to ask myself, "How did the editor let this slide?"

Like so many other readers, I read the book description and thought the collection would contain nuanced stories. Don't get me wrong--a few are actually quite good--and the author is at her best when she doesn't describe any of the characters, so much as she just lets us into a dark portion of their lives. "Mercy," "Siege," and "Friday Night" were highlights.

What's troublesome and disappointing her
3 Things About This Book
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 29, 2019 rated it liked it
The most memorable stories is one about a grieving widow and another about a lonely girl taken hostage by her stepfather, but the rest are difficult to recall or call memorable. The cover is deceptive: these stories are gritty and the characters are tough. There’s one or two instances where I cocked my head at the way characters of color were portrayed - a few stereotypes, to say the least.
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-won
I won a copy of this book.

9 short stories fill this book. My personal favorite was Siege, as it had an unexpected twist. Finished it in one sitting.
rated it it was amazing
Aug 14, 2019
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