Named one of Amazon’s Best Short Story Collections of 2014
One of Atlanta Journal Constitution’s 9 Best Books of 2014
Best Short Story Collection of the Year, Tweed's Magazine
Winner of GLCA New Writers Award for Fiction
2014 LA Times Book Prize Finalist
Winner of the Florida Book Awards Silver Medal for Fiction
Nominated for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction
“A debut collection of unsparing yet warmly empathetic stories…akin to both Anton Chekhov and Raymond Carver in humane spirit and technical mastery” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
The Heaven of Animals, award-winning young writer David James Poissant’s stunning debut, has been one of the most-praised story collections of the year. Named one of Amazon’s Best Short Story Collections of 2014, compared to the work of Richard Ford and Amy Hemple in the Los Angeles Review of Books, to Anton Chekhov, Raymond Carver, and George Saunders in the New York Post, and the subject of a full-page rave by Clyde Edgerton in Garden & Gun, this “collection of vicious and heartbreaking vignettes” (The Orlando Sentinel) is a must-read for any fiction lover.
In each of the stories in this remarkable debut, Poissant explores the tenuous bonds of family—fathers and sons, husbands and wives—as they are tested by the sometimes brutal power of love. His strikingly true-to-life characters have reached a precipice, chased there by troubles of their own making. Standing at the brink, each must make a choice: Leap, or look away? Pulitzer Prize finalist Lee Martin writes that Poissant forces us “to face the people we are when we’re alone in the dark.”
From two friends racing to save the life an alligator in “Lizard Man” to a girl helping her boyfriend face his greatest fears in “The End of Aaron,” from a man who stalks death on an Atlanta street corner to a brother’s surprise at the surreal, improbable beauty of a late night encounter with a wolf, Poissant creates worlds that shine with honesty and dark complexity, but also with a profound compassion. These are stories hell-bent on hope.
Fresh, smart, lively, and wickedly funny, The Heaven of Animals is startlingly original and compulsively readable. As bestselling author Kevin Wilson puts it, “Poissant is a writer who knows us with such clarity that we wonder how he found his way so easily into our hearts and souls.”
Imprecise language and a didactic resolution mar this entertaining but ultimately underwhelming debut collection of stories. Standouts include "Lizard Man," in which the death of a friend's father serves as a catalyst for a homophobic man to restore relations with his gay son (a plotline picked up again by the connected title story), and the pitch-perfect "Last of the Great Land Mammals," in which a dual narrative chronicles a couple's experience at Kentucky's Big Bone Lick State Park, culminating with the surreal image of a woman riding a bison. While some of the longer stories, such as "Amputee," wear out their welcome, due, in part, to clich s like "her touch was electric," the shortest stories in the collection feel padded. "The Baby Glows" and "100% Cotton," clocking in at under four pages each, and featuring a glowing baby and a stickup shooter, respectively, devolve into tired metaphors. There are some great moments good bits of dialogue and interesting premises but for the most part, the stories don't live up to their potential.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I have met Mr. Poissant casually, having known his parents for years. Quite frankly, I bought the book for this reason, and had somewhat modest expectations.
I'm not a literary connoisseur, yet I appreciate plot, character and the descriptive intricacies a fine writer can weave. Mr. Poissant excels in this regard. I found these stories fantastically engaging. The characters were very identifiable. The situations empathetic. I found myself more than once teary-eyed or with goose-bumps.
I would highly recommend.
Ignore the Publishers Weekly review. This is a fantastic book, by a fantastic young author. These stories are both deeply moving and piercingly insightful. Though the characters that populate the collection vary considerably, the warmth and dexterity with which they are written remain steady throughout. I cannot recommend this book enough.