A LESSON IN MANNERS: Winner of the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award
Want a sample? Hear audio of the author reading select stories over at SoundCloud:
About the book
The ten stories in this haunting and hilarious collection offer a how-to manual for dealing with love, lies, and loneliness. Sam Wesson, an up-and-coming country-western singer, plots to get pregnant without her boyfriend’s consent, while Dacey, already pregnant, confronts her cheating husband over her secret checking account. Andrea rescues a stray dog to avoid facing her complicated human relationships. Sarah, an exotic dancer, longs for employment at a religious theme park, and Amelia dreams of creating impossible bonsai. Whether facing life-threatening illness or life-threatening loss, these characters scheme in humble, funny, sympathetic, and outrageous ways to find an etiquette that will deliver them from disappointment and shield them from crushing grief.
From the reviews:
The collection . . . is lovely from beginning to end. While the pining for change links her stories, Urban employs different tones and forms to create a collection that offers readers variation on the through line. Her characters, in even the briefest of the stories, are fully realized, their hopes, fears, and disappointments vital on the page.
Urban leavens the heartbreak of her stories with flashes of humor, even when characters are at their lowest point. . . A Lesson in Manners is the work of a sure-handed storyteller with insight into the heart and its deepest desires.
—Rob Cline, Cedar Rapids Gazette
Judge Jacob M. Appel, author of The Biology of Luck, Scouting for the Reaper, The Magic Laundry, and The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, wrote of the collection:
“Great” storytellers are as striking as they are rare, and what usually sets one apart is a voice that announces the author as an important, distinctive presence on the literary scene. Only a few pages into A Lesson in Manners, I realized Misty Urban had such a voice.
A Lesson in Manners serves up a panoramic view of the American experience—stories that vary considerably in technique and tone, yet all display the author’s vibrant imagination and keen eye for emotional truth. Some of the stories harness the inventive techniques of postmodernism, such as “Sally”, where we discover that, while we have been engrossed in the life of the title character, “the real story has been going on across the street.” Others serve up realism at its starkest, like the exploration of a wife’s financial infidelity in “Trying to Find a Corndog in Tompkins County.” From a co-ed’s encounter with cancer to a tale of grief and recovery set against the political dynamics of an alternative treatment center in suburban Illinois, Urban’s stories lead us into worlds that are unfamiliar, yet somehow recognizable in their parallels to our own. Most of all, what sets these stories apart is their deep authenticity. At every turn, one senses the author’s compassion for her subjects, and the more she cares, the more we feel ourselves caring as well.
Infused with crystalline language reminiscent of Bobbie Ann Mason and Ann Beattie, and a narrative playfulness recalling Donald Barthelme and John Barth, these stories bring us something truly not seen before in American literature. A Lesson in Manners is an extraordinary collection that distills the lives of ordinary people—refreshing, compelling, and moving.
Buy a copy signed by the author: $20.00 plus shipping + handling
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Winners of the “Write Your Own Lesson in Manners” contest have been announced!
First prize winner: Amy Lipke for “Blow Your House Down”
Second prize winner: Abigail Klapatauskas for “Freedom Within Captivity”
Honorable mention: Mary R. Davidsaver for “Photographer in Search of a Subject”
Thanks to all who submitted their work to the contest, and congratulations to the winners. Stay tuned for more contests and giveaways to come!
Find me here on Saturday, August 27, soaking up inspiration from this terrific roster of writers and lovers of books.