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The Archive of Alternate Endings

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  784 ratings  ·  136 reviews
Tracking the evolution of Hansel and Gretel at seventy-five-year intervals that correspond with earths visits by Halleys Comet, The Archive of Alternate Endings explores how stories are disseminated and shared, edited and censored, voiced and left untold.

In 1456, Johannes Gutenbergs sister uses the tale as a surrogate for sharing a family secret only her brother believes.
Paperback, 159 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by Dzanc Books
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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Kevin Kelsey
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
This is such a beautiful short novel, built out of connected stories. Like Gnomon or Cloud Atlas, it is a story about stories, and while these other examples take a maximalist approach, The Archive of Alternate Endings is more intimately focused, more minimal. I particularly liked the framing device of Halley's Comet, and the suture of Hansel and Gretel's story, tying the narrative tightly together.

In a possibly left-field comparison, the Halley's Comet element reminded me of Metal Hurlant /
Michael Ferro
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My live review is now up at the Michigan Quarterly Review:

We human beings are nothing more than a collection of our stories, stories which comprise the vast histories of ourselves and the world around us, for better or worse. In Lindsey Dragers The Archive of Alternate Endings (Dzanc Books), the author takes her readers on a ride through the vast and intricate world of human storytelling and the ramifications of memory and forgetting. Drager has a unique ability to breathe life into some of
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4-4.5 stars
"It is easy to forget, but stories need not always have a purpose. We are quick to say that folktales have a moral or a lesson or a creed. But most of the stories that have survived the ages are told for one purpose only, and that purpose is to say this: 'Being human is difficult. Here is some evidence.'"

Just absolutely exquisite storytelling. Drager has written a story about stories--in the moment of their telling and through time--and about the powerful bonds that tie siblings
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
41/2 stars... there is so much to unpack here 😌
Bill Hsu
Aug 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook
I appreciate what Drager is trying to do here, but I'm not sure all of it works well.

The main themes are practically mined from my obsessions: the nature of stories and story-telling, labyrinths and breadcrumbs, natural phenomena and their mathematical models, gay men and their relationships with siblings and family...

I really enjoyed the more conventional sections, with one or two narrators. After the beautiful opening section "On Breadcrumbs and Constellations", I was just about ready to give
Amit Verma
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
First of I want to say it is complex, abstact, deep, innovative and brainstorming story.
It amazes how 32 years old author creates such a heavy, melancholic and time splitting narrative.
Story evaluates power of stories and how they survive in the memories of common folk and how they get transmitted and get modified according to the narrator.
Book covers period from 13 th century to 23 rd century. From the time when Halley comet was discovered and to the time when humans send probes in space to
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I dont know if other readers do this, but I often create a mental tapestry of plots for the books I readespecially the complicated books with multiple plots. I think of plots woven together to create a story. Lindsey Dragers unusual and eloquent novel/linked short stories, The Archive of Alternate Endings, defied my usual method of visualizing a story. Part way through the stories (chapters) that make up this book, I had an epiphany. It is as though Drager wrote all of the individual stories ...more
Jan 25, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a conceptually striking, beautifully-written book. Drager is a talent, make no mistake, and I'm excited to follow her career. That said, this particular book didn't entirely resonate with me, and for all intents and purposes, it should have. It hits all my faves: a pointfully fractured narrative that centres heavily on queer themes & issues, with a focus on the uniquely potent love between siblings, the perpetuity and magic of fairy tales, and some science metaphor to boot. Few ...more
I don't think I've ever read a book this meta.

(Review to follow)
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: woman-authored, lgbt
Finding the words to describe the depth of emotion and intellect packed into Lindsey Drager's quick novel "The Archive of Alternate Endings" is harder than just telling you to pick up a copy ASAP and read it.

Interweaving the stories of people from ten vastly different eras, Drager connect Halley's Comet, Hansel and Gretel, Gutenberg, and more to think through what connects us - and disconnects us - as humans. This book is rife with the beauties of strong women, powerful gay men, and the
Nov 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Phew! This book was something else! I'm glad I didn't know too much about it, since getting engrossed with was such a powerful experience. It had only 154 pages, but within those pages the story was carefully crafted, beautifully told and very intricate, and I loved every part of it.
Jessi Roesner
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of the most unique books I've ever read. A story about stories and who owns them, about the bond between siblings, about being connected but alone. The retellings of Hansel and Gretel were inventive and believable -- I had never really thought about the thematic depths of this fairy tale before.

Took me some time to find my way into it, as I think especially the first few chapters are a bit heavy-handed with the poetic phrasing and imagery. But as I kept reading things started clicking into
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is so hard to describe in the best way. I finished reading it a while ago, but it hasn't really stopped swirling around in my head. It's a little slip of a book, but it's about so many things: relationships both romantic and familial, stories, the art of telling stories (and why that difference is significant and important), history, discovery, and how our lives connect to the largeness of the world in ways that will we will never ever fully know.
Drager's writing is precise and
Mar 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Not much to the story but beautiful writing.
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: really-enjoyed
Stunning and creative, this book is so different from most other books I've read, both in premise and in style. It's comprised of vignettes about pairs of siblings from several of the years that Halley's Comet has visited Earth, spanning centuries and written in beautiful prose. I loved the focus on storytelling and on the relationship between siblings, and I especially liked when seemingly disconnected stories crossed paths or merged as one. My all time favourite part of the book was the ...more
Sydelle Keisler
May 08, 2020 rated it did not like it
This book was such a battle to get through. About halfway through I was convinced I didnt like it and that I wouldnt grow to like it, but I felt like it was me against the book, and I was not going to let the book win! So I finished it! There were two sections that I found meaningful (section in the middle on AIDS and the second to last chapter) but my god the rest was so irritating. Every sentence felt forced; every philosophical question felt overwrought and pseudo-deep. I felt like the book ...more
Apr 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is like the literary manifestation of the nautilus that dons its cover. Its ostensibly a novel though I would say it leans more toward poetry. The structure - shell, if you will- of the narrative is a chronicle or archive of the story of Hansel & Gretel through time, corresponding with Halleys Comet passing earth. Its the story of a story, real and imagined, and how it both changes and stays the same through centuries. Theres a slew of characters named and unnamed, including Hansel ...more
Shannon Navin
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book! Im not even sure what to say! Im a pretty simple reader who loves books but doesnt have a very sophisticated palate when it comes to writing. This book, however, is absolutely beautifully written and even a neophyte like me can tell! The message in this book is powerful, the writing evocative and the structure intricate. I definitely plan to read The Archive of Alternate Endings at least twice (and Im not a re-reader) just because I know that there is more to get out of it that I wasn ...more
maria jose casazza
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
wow. ok then. this hurt in the most beautiful way.
this is so much more than I'd let myself hope for.


It's crafty, poetical, full of longing and it's about a tale as old as time. This book merges the passage of Halley's Comet through Earth every several decades, with stories of brothers and sisters, of past, present and future, and the historical development of the Hansel and Gretel story.

I adored how the ages interlaced, how we learn the way stories travel, morph into something new,
Andy Brzezicki
Jul 01, 2019 rated it liked it
I'm not really sure what I just read. If someone asked me what this book was about I wouldn't know where to begin, let alone what to say.

I can't say I liked it but equally I didn't dislike it. I appreciated it because it's not like anything else I've read and it's fairly spectacularly written, I just found it dragged in places. Very poetic, provoking and abstract so pick it up if that's your thing! Xo
John Madera
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Lindsey Drager's The Archive of Alternate Endings is a deft fusion of fairy tale, science fiction, biography, and essay. "Ideas are promiscuous," Drager writes, "they want to spread and they want to combine," this novel as creator-preserver-destroyer not only trespassing convention and flouting easy categorization but making a powerful story out of story-making, belief, and make-believe.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Utterly and totally blown away. Lindsey Drager is fabulous and miraculous.
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I was really fascinated by the illustrator. And also the witch and her daughter. Great story collection that links its characters through Halley's Comet.

Some lines I liked:

"Then, parked on the shoulder of the road and surrounded by forest, he will get out and stand in the middle of the road and look up to the sky, trying to still time. The man will wait, at first patiently, because to look at the sky means to diminish the problems in his mind. The man will think: My body is on this earth, and
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Title: The Archive of Alternate Endings
Author: Lindsey Drager
Genre: Experimental Fiction
Whoa. What did I just read? What a clever and philosophical little gem.
Basically, this book is about stories and and the how these stories become shaped and bent throughout time and space. This book is about siblings and their love for one another and how they move through each others lives, shaping one another.
Lindsey Drager artfully incorporates stories being transmitted from the year 1378 all the way
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
I remember Hailey's Comet in 1986. The weather didn't cooperate with being able to see it and I as a small child was very disappointed but knew it would come back and my father and I could see it next time. He explained to me that he would definitely not see it next time and maybe I would but I would be a very old lady (I will be 82 in 2061) so he didn't know. For me that whole conversation put a lot of things into perspective about life and death for 6 year old me. So I have always had weird ...more
Laura Leaney
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
The central idea - as far as I can discern - is that we are all born into "The Universal Forest" recognizing the familiar stories in spite of all the changes and permutations they go through over the millennia. What Lindsey Drager has done here is an imagining of "Hansel and Gretel" over time, tracking the fairy tale as it accrues new meanings (never losing the old ones) as it travels like a bead of water sliding through a nautilus shell. Rather fascinating. It took a bit of mental work to ...more
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves, historical
But perhaps it is really a story about how to eat, who to fill the gut with, and why. Perhaps this is a story about the way the body aches to be satisfied, and how we call this both hunger and desire. ...more
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Its hard to describe this book or what its about because its about everything. The universe and the earth and those that inhabit it. Its about love and loss and heartache. Its about family and siblings, and what that means, to be of the same blood. This is a book about fairytales and not so happy endings. Its a book of wisdom and truth, and filled to the brim with magic, the kind of magic you get to hold in your hands, and the kind that when you put it down lingers on your fingers and latches on ...more
Aug 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Stars

This was a daunting, haunting and lyrical tale woven through time, with the common theme of how love shields and protects us from prejudice/hatred and encourages us to embrace new ideas.
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Such a gorgeous book, lovingly executed. Poetic prose ties vignettes together with overarching themes like siblings, love, illness and the conservation of life and stories handled with deftness and sensitivity. Would recommend.
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Lori Hettler is the founder and moderator of The Next Best Book Club, one of the most popular groups on Goodreads, and has been a reader and...
77 likes · 30 comments
“It is easy to forget, but stories need not always have a purpose. We are quick to say that folktales have a moral or a lesson or a creed. But most of the stories that have survived the ages are told for one purpose only, and that purpose is to say this: "Being human is difficult. Here is some evidence.” 11 likes
“What is story if not the safe harbor for our most disturbing imaginings? I learned early that the notion of what will come to pass haunts better. But, too, it is about the storyteller—who you choose to trust and why. From where comes your decision to believe the breath that leaves the mouth that tells.” 1 likes
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