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3.73  ·  Rating details ·  433 ratings  ·  82 reviews
A Buzz Book of Fall at Publishers Lunch * A WIRED Ultimate Summer Reading pick

National Book Award finalist Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's highly anticipated return weaves together like and unlike, mythic and modern

In nine stories that range from the real to the unreal, strange to familiar, funny to frightening, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum reminds us why her wildly original debut, Madel
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 1st 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  433 ratings  ·  82 reviews

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Megan Tristao
Jan 13, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Megan by: Bustle: The Books Everyone Will Be Talking About All September Long
DNF: Got a few pages into the sixth story and stumbled across the r-word. It wasn't in dialogue, and it wasn't used to make a point; apparently the author simply felt it was the best adjective available to describe the decision to take comic books out of their boxes. *rolls eyes* And this book was published in 2020, and the story in question was first published in 2016. So yeah, I don't feel the need to finish it. (Which is a shame because the previous story, "Many A Little Makes," had been my f ...more
Courtney Landis
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’ve never read anything by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum before Likes, her first short-story collection after two novels. Brandon Taylor on twitter commented how much he loved the writing, and that praise and the gorgeous cover was more than enough for me to send the NetGalley request. After how much I enjoyed Taylor’s debut novel Real Life I figured his recommendation couldn’t steer me too wrong, and I was right. Likes is absolutely excellent; every single story is a hit.

The collection opens with a st
Michael Finocchiaro
I was not particularly moved by these rather trite short stories. At first, they seemed to want to focus on one particular benefit for a kid's charity or something, but then they quickly diverged on other topics. Perhaps it is just the newer generation of writers and their concerns which put me off, but I honestly did not enjoy these stories all that much, particularly with other IMHO better collections available (Scattered Lights: Stories, The Secret Lives of Church LadiesThe Office of Historic ...more
This was a hit and miss collection for me: I only loved one of the stories, and enjoyed another three; touches of magic realism à la Aimee Bender produce the two weakest stories, and there are a few that simply tail off without having made a point.

My favorite was “Many a Little Makes,” about a trio of childhood best friends whose silly sleepover days come to an end as they develop separate interests and one girl sleeps with another one’s brother. In “Tell Me My Name,” set in a post-economic coll
Denver Public Library
Dec 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lainie, short-stories
I basically refuse to read short stories these days—most feel like MFA program churn-outs, and as a result the stories all run together and I can’t seem to remember a single one after I’m done—but I made an exception here since I loved Ms. Hempel Chronicles. I’m glad I did. Many of these are the platonic ideal of a story you’d tell your closest friend. They’re about moments of internal crisis, formative moments, moments when “everything changed.” The small decisions that had lasting, snowballing ...more
Jun 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an eclectic and entertaining collection of short stories. Bynum has a gift with developing characters and scenes that, although in a short story format, contain enough substance and depth to make it feel like you are reading a full novel. This is a well-rounded collection with stories that span a wide range including tales with fairy tale qualities, to realistic stories of parenting in the modern age, to the psychological aspects of recovery. Bynum plays with perspective and timing in tr ...more
Jun 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars overall - I wasn’t a huge fan of the weird time jumping in some of these stories and the organization could have been better. But there was something about them that was gripping and unusual.
Kristi Lamont
Jan 23, 2021 rated it liked it
Not quite sure why I picked this up off my public library's new fiction shelf.....had not read about it or put it on my to read list.

Thought, as I glanced at the flyleaf copy, that it was a series of short stories that sort of fell together enough to be a novel.



No. 2: I'm trying, I swear to God & Heaven Above that I'm trying, to be less snotty about short
Sep 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
These are lovely, well plotted and well told human-scale stories, all of them with little kernels of hard truths at their centers to be discovered. Pacing varies, but not a true dud in the bunch.
Tarah Fedenia
Oct 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Each short story was so different, yet I found myself fully invested in each one. Was the Burglar's Emmett an allusion to Emmett Till? Many A Little Makes was reminiscent of the show Pen 15 for me, probably cause I'm currently watching it. Each of these stories was so satsifying to me. Powerful endings. ...more
Sarah  :)
Jan 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
so atmospheric.
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley-read
Book Review: Likes
Author: Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
Review Date: May 30, 2020

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the blurb:
“National Book Award finalist Sarah Shun-lien Bynum’s highly anticipated return weaves together like and unlike, mythic and we modern

In nine stories that range from the real to the unreal, strange to familiar, funny to frightening, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum remi
Raelyn Torngren
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Special thanks to FSG for the egalley for review.

The collection opens with the story, “The Erkling” which follows a mother and daughter as they wander around the local fairy fair. Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum’s writing seamlessly weaves between the realities and expectations of this pair, along with their hopes for and disappointments in each other. The casual slippage between characters is a pleasure to read and gave the story an ephemeral air that I found so compelling. After this first story, I kne
Ernesto I. Ramirez
Dec 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fragment
Is an interesting use of technique, using just fragments to tell what matters on the story and the Instagram addendums as points to both show change and push forward the story.
Caitlin Kindervatter-Clark
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you enjoy short stories (and if you do not like them as a genre, maybe consider not reviewing them on Goodreads?) this collection will offer great satisfaction. My favorite story is "The Erlking," which is about a mother who romanticizes a particular childhood aesthetic (think wooden toys, Waldorf, wings) while also feeling it excludes herself and her daughter because they are not rich or white. Yet in the process of idealizing the Waldorf aesthetic (and honestly, what mother raising a child ...more
Betty Beel
Jun 28, 2021 rated it liked it
Liked Not Loved ...

This collection of short stories has been sitting on my TBR for awhile. I usually don’t read too many short story collections because I like to fully immerse myself into one singular narrative, BUT when you’re having a busy week, short stories feel like less of a commitment. You can enjoy a snackable story each day!

There isn’t one central theme in Likes, each story really is its own thing. Bynum’s writing is so direct and fluid I could just sop up her words off the page. She h
Jan 22, 2021 rated it liked it
Rather than sharply defined short stories, these are all fuzzy around the edges. I felt as though I had wandered into and occasionally out of someone else’s life with all their daily, tedious chores to observe and the occasional bit of action. If anything, that’s what unites these tales: the author’s eye for the mundane in relationships. For each of these stories is, at its heart, about a relationship: mother and daughter; childhood best friends; father and daughter; neighbors; someone you might ...more
Jul 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Thank you to the author and publisher for providing me with a digital ARC of this title via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

3.5 stars I am not usually a fan of short stories, but thought I would give this one a try based on all the good reviews for this title and for this author. Sarah Shunlien Bynum is obviously a talented writer. It was very easy to get in to each story. The problem was that I was too much into each story that when it quickly ended, I was disappointed. I found so ma
Nov 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: pop-fiction
I liked this book of short stories but I didn't love it. They are all well written and follow the same form, the story begins just off center and trails off at the end so that the reader may draw their own conclusion, or as I found myself thinking at the end of each story, what was this about? What was the point? The characters are evocative bit they are also vapid. Except for the last story, they are all white and even the black characters in the final story felt white. With everything going on ...more
Dec 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I'm often lukewarm about short stories and I had thought this was a novel when I grabbed it at the library so I was a little bummed to discover otherwise. However, this particular writer is especially adept with the form so I pressed on. I had initially discovered her through a short story in the New Yorker (an older one, not in this collection) and then read her novel The Miss Hempel Chronicles, which I enjoyed. She's insightful and her writing is lyrical; it's not surgical and punchy like Jenn ...more
Edna Pontellier
Mar 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Bynum's capacious, big-hearted stories explore the everyday magic of contemporary family life. Many of the stories are infused with magical elements or influenced by fairy tales, but they still remain grounded in the complexities of our present moment.

Stand-out stories include "The Young Wife's Tale," a creative exploration of the ways in which fairy tale depictions of romantic relationships shape our expectations and experiences of real ones; "Many a Little Makes," about three girls' friendship
Taylor Cole
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
These stories were incredibly rich. There wasn’t a single one that I put down in the middle of, and I found myself completely enthralled in the characters. While I found the writing to be beautiful, I struggled to come away with meaning from many of the stories, and felt confused by some of the endings. This is probably due to me treating these stories like parables, and looking to glean a lesson or ultimate truth from them. I had been referring to the stories as “dark fables,” because a few of ...more
James Beggarly
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thanks to Netgalley and FSG for an early ebook. It’s been a while since there’s been a new book from this author and I was so happy to slip back into the world’s that she can create with this group of nine stories. She is delightful throughout, with the perfect turn of phase or wry observation that just hit in such an off kilter way. And the best stories, Julia and Sunny, where a married couple watches another couple’s marriage end, Many a Little Makes, about three teenage girls and how they fou ...more
Sarah Pitman
Jan 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Most of these stories were told under the guise of the ordinary and the mundane, though usually with something just slightly off, strange, bothersome. Voice and character all well-rounded--each new chapter had me missing the last, then quickly becoming entangled in the new. Honestly, none of the stories stood out spectacularly or blew my mind, but Shun-lien Bynum gets points for what she does with perspective. We slide in and out, and will suddenly pivot POVs with the absolute grace of a dancer ...more
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
an enjoyable collection of short stories. i saw some comparisons to lauren groff, but this is more straight forward. most impressive is character building within such compact spaces, each story is quite different from the last, requiring new setups and atmospheres, and bynum accomplishes grabbing the reader into each one, mid-story at times, purposely satiating some curiosities and leaving others unresolved. tv writing in a failed state. modern (without being cringey) two's a company, three's a ...more
Apr 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I received this short story collection for my birthday last February and devoured it within a week. Favorites from the collection include: The Erlking, Many a Little Makes, Julia and Sunny, and Likes (though none of the stories disappointed). Dramatically different from "Madeleine is Sleeping" (still one of my favorite novels) it was fun to see Bynum's range, as her writing style was significantly different in this collection in comparison to her former work (I admittedly still have to read "Ms. ...more
Pegah Ouji
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: artful-fiction
Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum is a master storyteller. The characters in each story were well-developed and I was impressed by the diversity of the character's circumstances and personalities that Sarah managed to capture so well. I could see them, I have seen them. They are the twelve years old daughter struggling with changes, the worrying middle-aged father trying to cope with the change, the wife and husband who remain together despite rough patches, the trio of childhood friends whose commitment to ...more
Susan Tunis
Oct 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It is often said that a good short story should leave the reader wanting more. In the hands of less skillful writers, this translates to a frustrating lack of resolution. No worries here. This collection is pretty fantastic from start to finish. The writing is gorgeous, yet unpretentious. Many of the stories explore the lives of girls and women at different points of development. Most of the stories are realistic, but a few have a hint of... something other. More than anything, this was just exc ...more
Chelsea Graham
The characters in this collection are just stunning. They feel average in the best possible way, like they could be anyone, as they go through deeply relatable experiences rendered in the most tender and nuanced way. And their relationships are so thorough, so subtle, so concrete. The detailed description of the settings are lovely, gorgeous, haunting. A barn full of dolls in "The Erkling". Imogene's wild backyard in which the young women play in "Many a Little Makes". And the magical elements, ...more
Aug 31, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley-arcs
3.5 stars

I found parts of this book deeply intriguing, but found others parts not quite what I was expecting. I remember loving the author's book "Madeleine is Sleeping" from some years back, and her writing remains beautiful. I found the characters compelling, but parts of this felt ever so slightly too short for my usual taste.

Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for the chance to read this book!
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Sarah Shun-lien Bynum is an American writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter and teaches writing and literature at UC San Diego.

Bynum is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Madeleine is Sleeping was published by Harcourt in 2004 and was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. Her short sto

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