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American Salvage

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  2,254 ratings  ·  353 reviews
“These short stories approach their subjects from an array of perspectives, but what they share is freshness, surprise, and a compulsion to plumb some absolute extremes of American existence.”—National Book Award citation

American Salvage is rich with local color and peopled with rural characters who love and hate extravagantly. They know how to fix cars and washing machine
Paperback, 170 pages
Published December 14th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published March 10th 2009)
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3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,254 ratings  ·  353 reviews

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Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
En estas fechas entrañables, en las que siempre nos deben unir los mejores sentimientos, me llena de orgullo y satisfacción compartir con todos vosotros mis reflexiones sobre estos cuentos que acabo de terminar y mi convicción de que, pese al dolor que transmiten, su lectura colmará todos vuestros anhelos literarios.

El mundo, mejor dicho, la mayor parte del mundo lleva sufriendo los efectos de las crisis desde que se tiene memoria sin que ello parezca importarles nada al reducido y restringido g
Richard Derus
Dec 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been revised and can be found at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.
Larry Bassett
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
American Salvage is a book of short stories that should remind you what a good life you have. If it doesn’t, you’ve got problems!
Trisha knew perfectly well Stuart’s wife was a meth addict, not a crack whore – it bothered her that she’d gotten that insult wrong in the heat of the moment.

I bought this book because it was a 2009 National Book Award finalist and is set in my home state of Michigan. Occasionally I like to remember that I spent the first thirty years of my life in southeastern Michi
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Welcome to down-and-out small-town America: the dreamers, the unemployed, the hunters, the meth addicts, the damaged, the rape survivors, the prematurely old.

It’s not a pretty picture yet conversely, the prose shines beautifully in these 14 finely-tuned short stories. In a sentence – or a phrase—Bonnie Jo Campbell captures the thought process of a character and brings him or her to life.

Take, for example, Family Reunion, a dark story about an adept girl – a hunter-- who is raped by her drunken
Apr 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stories-novellas
In a lot of ways, Bonnie Jo Campbell reminded me of a Midwestern Flannery O'Connor. Like O'Connor, she carries a strong omniscient voice through most of her stories; she fixates on the working class and rural landscapes; she does not shy away from violence or grit (neither does she romanticize it); and she fuses the strange, the beautiful, the sacred, and the profane in short tales that bear the whiff of myth about them.

But let none of that imply that Campbell is not unique. She is.

I perked up t
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

I recently found myself with the opportunity to interview revered author Bonnie Jo Campbell for the CCLaP Podcast; and so before doing so, I thought it would be beneficial to read her two most popular books besides the one I've already read (2011's Once Upon a River, that is, considered by many to be a fro
Crabby McGrouchpants
One of those lovely, accomplished works that leaves you knowing you've been around these people, times and places; it literally took me 'til the last few pages to realize I was leaving a world that someone had written down, not "just there" like a spell, a dream, a visit.

So seamless you see more of what's down at the ends of certain roads. A new milestone-setter, believe this!
Chris Sienko
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own
This book was recommended to me heartily, nay STRENUOUSLY, by my friend Sam, who I reconnected with this summer after a very long absence. He lives in Kalamazoo, and raved about Bonnie Jo Campbell's books as being the birth of "Southwest Michigan Noir." He basically gave me an ultimatum: if I get through the four-page introductory story, "The Trespasser," there was no way I would put it down until I was finished.

He's not wrong. "The Trespasser" is an unholy, psychedelic, heartbreaking, amazingl
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really want to give this collection 4.9 stars. I loved it and thought it really fantastic; almost all of the stories were close to perfect. I just couldn't do 5 because I have a problem with the endings--not what happens in the ending, but the ending line or word. The writing throughout was so beautiful, but ending a story with a flat word (like "she") just bugs me. I want that last word to really mean something. This is a picky thing, I know.

I was really impressed with Campbell and her abilit
Nov 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book should have been depressing. Truly awful things happen to and are done by the characters in these stories. And yet, there is an underlying feeling of hope. That of keeping on, no matter the circumstances. That it may never be perfect but it will be yours.

One of the strongest themes in all of the stories is that of dependence/independence. There is a desire to not be a burden or have someone else having a say in how his or her life is lived. Whatever this life is, these characters want
Santiago Eximeno
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excelente de principo a fin. Gran libro.
Mientras Leo
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Va a ser de mis mejores lecturas de fin de año. No tengo la más mínima duda. Desgarrador y peculiar
Jun 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Filled w/ the scraps of clunkers, salvage yards dot the landscape and lie dormant on the periphery of a city's landscape. Bonnie Jo Campbell picks through the lives of the poor, the tired, the weak, the abused and the abusers metaphorically to suggest those discarded from mainstream America, those lives that comprise the throw away society, populate more than place; they live in the very soul of Americana.

In "American Salvage" resides a duality of meaning, for a salvage yard is more than a plac
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I suspect Bonnie Jo Campbell is a rare writer indeed. There are not many authors telling the stories of the working poor in the U.S. and every other one I know of is a man. So I felt myself quite lucky to stumble upon these stories told by a woman and definitely with a woman's voice and perspective which is not always the case even when reading a female author. There was definitely a feminist tint to some stories but it's not necessarily an overriding theme. Subjects that crop up often were Y2K ...more
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The theme of this creative book has got to be . . . "If it weren’t for bad luck, i’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, and misery are me."
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Perspective is speculative are best, ignored at worst and sometimes Authors loose individual characters perspective when writing short stories, as the main characters can blend into one general person, each displaying a different facet of the same personality, and therefore perspective.

Bonnie has achieved a fantastic result with the reader feeling the poor dirty desperation, the hopeless shattering of dreams, realisation and revenge, and plain old love lost. Sometimes the level of unrecognized
Dec 19, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Y'know how you don't really believe Denis Johnson's addict characters in Jesus' Son? I don't really believe a lot of Bonnie Jo Campbell's characters. I don't know why. They're three dimensional characters who feel like real people; I think it's the disconnect between the extremely functional, fluid word-to-word writing she does, the way sentences and paragraphs are laid out, and the characters themselves- their desperation. Y'know? I don't know. I wasn't so into this.
Feb 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sad tales of meth addicts and Y2K preppers and the people who love them by an amazingly talented writer.

Note to self: Disaster is coming. Must lay in stores of bottled water, toilet paper and everything Campbell has written...
Dec 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of the short story
Recommended to Jeff by: Jane (of Cristian & Jane fame)
This book was nominated for the National Book Award and was given to us by our friend (the publisher) long before that announcement. Still, i kept backshelving it. I'm glad that i finally picked it up, shortly after the bad news (i.e., not The Big Winner).

With only a couple exceptions, i felt satisfied (at least) by every story. Some Goodreaders have written that not only do the stories provide no resolution but they also don't truly begin. I think that's a matter of expectations. If you go to t
Paris (parisperusing)
"The Inventor, 1972" is one of the first stories and remains my favorite of the collection. Bonnie Jo Campbell is a genius.
S Moss
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
White-trash Angst
Most contemporary American stories focus on middle-class characters, or individuals who lead unusual lives, either through neurosis, physical disability or rarely talent. Their location, when not a major metropolis, often New York City, is usually a comfortable suburb or quaint small town. Taking a different approach and subject matter, Campbell’s stories focus on that segment of America some claim hasn’t been listened to or treated as if their problems mattered. Her settings ar
Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion
Add this fine collection of stories to your list of American authors penciling down the contemporary lives that worm beyond the petty dreams and glamor of our haughty metropoles. Bonnie Jo Campbell is down in her native rural Michigan with this endeavor, and her depictions show a consistency of place while exploring a variety of themes. While the stories may strike folk who have known little but privilege in life as depressing, there is a great swelling of humanity shining forth from her charact ...more
Jul 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is strong stuff. These are stories mostly of working-class people on farms or in small towns in Michigan whose lives are spinning out of control. Many of them are addicted to meth or have some sort of codependency with people addicted to meth. The description of these people's lives is painful, straightforward, unjudgmental, and sometimes ferocious. You feel their pain, and in some cases their dignity and integrity. Indeed the issue of how people succeed or fail to be true to one another is ...more
Dec 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Ben Findlay, Myke Reiser
Recommended to Derek by: Geeta
Basically the print version of those terrifying meth commercials, Bonnie Jo Campbell's excellent collection of short stories, American Salvage explores the depths of rural Michigan misery in striking fashion. Campbell knows how to do a hell of a lot of things really, really well, and chief among these is using setting to show character, and vice versa. The people who exist in these stories exist not only in their environments, but of them as well--and being conscious of this fact does very littl ...more
Dec 20, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bonnie Jo Campbell's American Salvage contains experiments with form, such as "The Solutions to Brian's Problem", but it's the setting that ties all these stories together: the vast stretches of rural America--small one-industry towns, blighted landscapes, poor and desperate people. Campbell skillfully ratchets up the emotional intensity: the intense pain of a serious burn slides into the ecstasy of sex which climbs into Catholic passion; blood features prominently throughout, as does asphalt, a ...more
Morgan Emily
Dec 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
found this in nanu(high school english teacher friends)'s bookshelf one day. layed stomach down on the carpet of her rented out room in morristown, and read the first story. then we went out a' drinking in afore mentioned morristown square section. the entire time i lit my brain up with i dont even remembered what, all i could think about was a semen and blood stained mattress. wondered if my own looked kind of like that?? if that little twelve yr old entered my room, would she understand yet no ...more
Alex V.
Apr 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bonnie Jo Campbell is an expert in wounds: how the way we get them is fuzzy and only reveals itself to us over time, in less time than it is revealed to others. How wounds that are not cared for heal wrong. How there is never any money to get wounds looked at anyway, and whose wounds ever heal right? What's right? How they heal anyway and how our every step bears traces of that botched healing, as are the steps of those that did the wounding. How there are little moments of clarity when our woun ...more
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has been a long while since I have read a collection of short stories. The last time might have been during one of the last college courses I took to get my English degree. This collection, though, has made me realize just how amazing short stories can be.

All of the stories presented here form an exceptional final piece. All of the stories are heartbreaking, moving, raw, realistic, depressing, yet, somehow...hopeful.

The stories are all told from Michiganders of varying backgrounds, but all
Jan 05, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In spite of the imprimatur of a National Book Award citation and the praise of luminaries, including NPR and Alan Cheuse, there is little to recommend in this compendium of deceit, decrepiitude, decay, and disillusion. I had assumed that these stories might provide a reflective perspective on the rigors of rural Michigan in the postindustrial era...not unlike what Bobbie Ann Mason has accomplished for rural Kentucky. I can only say that Mason's single story "Detroit Skyline, 1949" is more reveal ...more
Oct 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to gwayle by: 2009 National Book Award finalist
Excellent short stories of impoverished down-and-outs in rural Michigan. The stories are slightly less than satisfying because they are so short, but it says something about Campbell's storytelling abilities that each story weaves such a memorable and compelling spell; I'd love novel-length versions or continuations of each. It's gritty and tender, often at the same time, with nuanced characters who are convincing and emotionally complex, often desperately hopeful in spite of bleak surroundings ...more
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Bonnie Jo Campbell is the author of the National Book Award finalist American Salvage, Women & Other Animals, and the novels Q Road and Once Upon a River. She is the winner of a Pushcart Prize, the AWP Award for Short Fiction, and Southern Review’s 2008 Eudora Welty Prize for “The Inventor, 1972,” which is included in American Salvage. Her work has appeared in Southern Review, Kenyon Review, a ...more
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