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What I Didn't See and Other Stories
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What I Didn't See and Other Stories

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  790 ratings  ·  115 reviews
In her moving and elegant new collection, New York Times bestseller Karen Joy Fowler writes about John Wilkes Booth’s younger brother, a one-winged man, a California cult, and a pair of twins, and she digs into our past, present, and future in the quiet, witty, and incisive way only she can.

The sinister and the magical are always lurking just below the surface: for a mothe
Hardcover, 197 pages
Published September 28th 2010 by Small Beer Press (first published 2002)
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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Jan Priddy
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I bought this book from Small Beer at AWP, I thought it was a new collection, and said as much to Karen Joy Fowler a short time later. She signed my copy and she muttered about her frustration with the novel she is currently writing (her husband has reminded her that this is not new, that she struggled for years with her "ape story") and I recognized the topic of the current struggle from a story she shared in a class I had with her long ago. "That was the impetus," I think she said when I ...more
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This falls somewhere around three and a half stars for me, but I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt because I didn't read it in my medium of choice. While I'm now okay with the occasional ebook, I don't think it's the ideal medium for short story collections. I want to be able to choose which story to read next. I want to be able to glance back at the title of the story I just read as soon as I'm done, because proper titling is an art form. I want to be able to glance at the credits and see wh ...more
Michael Beeman
May 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
For some authors, a short story collections is like a science lab. The stories in this collection, published over a span of nearly two decades, show Fowler experimenting with many different styles and forms distinct from her novels. But no matter the genre or subject, the author retains what makes her full-length books so successful: an attention to detail, an ear for language, and compassion for her characters. For those who have found Fowler through her novels, these stories offer a chance to ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Not the best short stories I read in 2010, but I think the one about the immortality cult and the one about the teen sent away for brainwashing boot camp will stick with me.
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's a hit and miss collection, but the misses are innocuous and the hits are home runs. Fowler is a gem.
Joy Pixley
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of clever and insightful stories that go in unexpected directions. They are slow, quiet explorations of individuals and their lives and relationships. I really enjoyed many of the stories, but several others seemed to end abruptly, with no clear resolution. Definitely worth a look for fans of magical realism. Note that the first story was my least favorite, so if you don't like that one, please do keep reading: you may find you like the others better.
Lisa Eckstein
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
I've read several of Fowler's varied novels, so it was no surprise that the stories in this collection also range wildly in setting, genre, and focus. What they have in common is excellent writing, at least a dash of humor, and richly developed characters and worlds.

About half the stories depict specific historical eras and sometimes take inspiration from real events and people. Two revolve around the assassination of Abraham Lincoln: "Booth's Ghost" tracks the careers of the Booth family of act
Amanda Del Brocco
Feb 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020-here-we-go
Another uneven short story collection.
Mar 24, 2018 rated it liked it
What an interesting set of short stories. I enjoyed this book because of its quirkiness. It was a bit difficult to read through some of the stories though because they were a bit dry. But overall, a solid 3 stars.
Feb 11, 2018 marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference
Because of Pelican Bar, which in Evolution of SF group is noted as not actually being SF or fantasy except for nictitating membranes, even though it won genre awards.
Well. I thought it was SF. It was also ugly and opaque. I tried to read a couple others in the collection and couldn't.
Aug 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
I'm not usually a fan of the short story. At best, I'm left feeling dissatisfied that the story (or stories) aren't novel length, and that the characters and the plot weren't fleshed out to completion. At worst, I finish them with a bitter after-taste based on not understanding what the author was trying to convey. I had read some of Karen Joy Fowler's books in the past and because I had enjoyed her writing before, I thought I'd give this compilation of stories a try. Besides, it was a library b ...more
Katherine Pearl
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My favorite stories in this collection straddle the line between reality and not-quite-reality in a style I have long admired, even though I am never sure what to call it (Slipstream? Magical realism? Sci-fi?). The title story adheres pretty closely to historical fact, but the visitors encounters with Africa and gorillas, which were at the time almost mythical beasts, endows it with a aura of fantasy, and at the end, mystery. The collection opens with “The Pelican Bar,” which I read as a dark al ...more
Sep 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic collection of stories that venture into the unseen and peripheral worlds that exist within the world around us. It's dark, sometimes funny, challenging, and always riveting in the way that good fiction makes us feel when it forces us to look at things we'd rather ignore.
William Leight
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
An interesting and well-written set of stories, some with a slight bent towards the fantastic.

“At the Pelican Bar”: This is one of the most depressing stories ever written, or at least that I've read. It's concept, of a rebellious teenage girl who is sent to a "reform school" where she is essentially tortured until she turns 18 and can't be legally held any longer, is all-too-realistic, sadly. Even the fact that, in some sense, she doesn't break under what she experiences hardy makes it triumpha
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
With a short story collection, you have to be willing to allow for stories to which you are indifferent and measure the quality of the collection by the height of the best stories. (The same goes for collections of essays, Nine Gates by Jane Hirshfield earned my 5-star appreciation despite my indifference to over half the essays because a couple were so exemplary.)

I thought "Booth's Ghost" was thoughtful, but not moving enough to remember a few weeks after reading it. Likewise "The Dark" and "Pr
I found this book on my tablet. I must have bought it in a bundle at some point, and then downloaded it at another point. I have a terrible memory so it isn't that unbelievable that I could have done both those things and forgotten it. I've been getting restless lately both with life and with the books I have planned to read, so I decided to just read this. I briefly googled the author's name and saw she wrote The Jane Austen Book Club. I made some assumptions because of that.

The first story in
Vel Veeter
Jul 14, 2017 rated it liked it
So I have only read one of Karen Joy Fowler’s books before: We are Completely Beside Ourselves. I really liked it. It’s about a family who raises a chimp alongside their other child and its various fallouts. It’s good.

But I also know her as the author of The Jane Austen Book Club which could be good, but I am suspicious of any book circulating around Jane Austen and her books because there’s so many of them.

And then her other books come with a variety of mixed subjects and reviews: so I can’t fi
Maree Kimberley
May 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Sometimes the quotes on the back blurb of a novel or short story collection can set expectations a little too high, and this was the case for me with Fowler's What I Didn't See Coming. With descriptions such as "Fowler's stories measure the human capacities for hope and despair, brutality and kindness" I was expecting a lot from this short story collection, and although I think several of the stories were excellent, overall it didn't live up to the back blurb hype.

The opening story, The Pelican
David Raz
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this book from the Super Nebula Author Showcase Humble Bundle so I was expecting something much more SF/Fantasy. That being said, I really enjoyed this collection so I am happy it was put on the collection.
While I usually read in paper, this was an exception and I read it on my cellphone. I waste much time waiting for and taking meetings, so it is very nice to have a book of short stories you can read. Most stories were read over days and sometimes weeks, and the fact that the stories were
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: stories, 2020
I revisited my review of "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves" and it was no help whatsoever, but this collection reiterates what I said about Fowler's novel: her writing is exuberant. All of these stories I liked and a few I really loved, but my hands-down favorite was "Always."

The thing I'd already learned was that when you remove death from your life, you change everything that's left. Take the petting zoo. Parrots are pretty long-lived compared to dogs and goats, but even they die. I'd be
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this collection to be wildly imaginative and creative, but also with a twist of nostalgia and food for thought. This was my first read of Karen Joy Fowler and I am anxious to see what else she has to offer.....truly a gifted and talented writer.
Alex Linschoten
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Well, that was boring. And the explicit details of spiders made it even less enjoyable since I have arachnophobia. Oh, and I'm Black; so the casual racism exhibited by the characters made it even worse than the spiders.

Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: women
I really struggled to finish this collection of stories. I can't say that they are not good, maybe just that they tend to be slow at first, and mostly realistic, with some touches of fantastic elements. Not my cup of tea.
May 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
The title story is pretty good. For me most of the other stories are neither fantasy nor weird nor literary.
Rachel Ann Brickner
I love this collection so much. It's so imaginative, funny, dark, & unique. Can't wait to go back to "The Dark" and "What I Didn't See" in particular. ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Wow. There are some uncomfortable stories in this anthology.

I may raise the rating on reflection. I just need some time to digest.
Holly Walrath
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for any Karen Joy Fowler fan. These stories are wild and unexpected. Fowler is an expert of the short story form.
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Very different than my usual short stories I read. Most were haunting in some way. I liked them overall.
Ashley Moore
Nov 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book has different short stories in it. Some stories where better than others.
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I was born in Bloomington, Indiana. I was due on Valentine's Day but arrived a week early; my mother blamed this on a really exciting IU basketball game. My father was a psychologist at the University, but not that kind of psychologist. He studied animal behavior, and especially learning. He ran rats through mazes. My mother was a polio survivor, a schoolteacher, and a pioneer in the co-operative ...more

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