A man puts his beloved pets to the knife; a family prepares for the Rapture; a woman in a department store slips a necklace into her purse. Whatever the situation, the characters in This Jealous Earth: Stories find themselves faced with moments of decision that will forever alter the course of their lives. Always moving and often touched with humor, Carpenter’s stories examine the tension between the everyday and the transcendent—our struggle to grasp what lies beyond our reach. Whether hawking body parts in a Midwestern city, orbiting through the galleries of a Paris museum or plotting sibling tortures in an Arizona desert, his characters lead us through a series of dilemmas of universal appeal.
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A Powerful Start to 2013
I made a resolution to read more books this year - and what a way to kick things off with This Jealous Earth. Normally, short story collections aren't my preference, but Carpenter structures this book into three sections with alternating long and short pieces. It kept my read crisp and fresh - and it certainly helps that each story packs an emotional punch.
Every story spoke to me on some level. Carpenter does an incredible job with the voice of each character, capturing an authentic, unique language for children, women and men of all ages. For me, this came to life particularly well in Sincerely Yours, a humorous recounting of a frustrating correspondence between a man and a faceless customer service representative. Without the benefit of a physical character thrust in the same proximity of a character, Carpenter builds a presence and imagery out of nothing more than concise letters back and forth.
Fast forward to the end of 2013 - if I reach my goal of fifty books, I know I'll look back on This Jealous Earth as one of my favorite reads of the year. Who knows, maybe I'll find myself dipping back into it for a story or two.