Reviews of A Lesson in Manners

Starred review from Publisher’s Weekly:

Urban takes readers on an amazing journey in this exceptional collection of short stories. She travels from a nameless hospital in the title story, where a young woman is trying to understand how her once perfectly healthy younger sister could be slowly dying of a tumor, to a Tennessee bar, where an up-and-coming country western singer yearns to make a baby with her unsuspecting boyfriend (“The Memoirs of Sam Wesson”), to an Evanston, Ill., center for healing, where an emotionally damaged employee is on the cusp of recovering from the death of her beloved adopted sister (“Planet Joy”). The author has an uncanny ability to explore relationships, love, and loss in a fresh and original way. In “Trying to Find a Corndog in Tompkins County,” an Arkansas woman, pregnant with her first child, contemplates fleeing the husband who raped her in order to claim the future she was meant to have. In “Welcome to the Holy Land,” an exotic dancer seeks redemption in a Tampa religious theme park, having fallen in love with the actor who plays Jesus in one of the exhibits. These are powerful stories told by a strong voice and written with vivid precision, leaving readers wondering what happens to the characters after their stories end.

From Rob Cline, “Tales of Longing,” Cedar Rapids Gazette:

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.

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.


Misty talks with Don Wooten and Roald Tweet on Scribble, a program about writing and the literary arts airing on Quad Cities 90.3 FM

“How to Be a Novelist in 10 Easy Steps” at Innate Plethora

4. Cultivate family and friends. Have an active social life. This will provide you with great material for your stories.

Carla Sarrett’s Blog

I like stories that are about subtle shifts, usually the realization that there’s no way out—or there’s only one way out, and it’s not pretty.

“Wrestling with Every Word” at

If you could inhabit the setting of one book, where would you live and why?

The fairy wood in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Author Spotlight at Wordsy Woman Author Services

In which the author shares some lessons she’s learned from marketing—things to steal, and things not to try.

“Friday Five” series by author E.D. Martin

What are three things on your bucket list?

Wear the Crown Jewels, swim with sharks, and breathe fire.

Write Up Newsletter from author Teresa LaBella

I am that unfortunate type of person who processes the world through writing; it’s how I make sense of my experiences and get a handle on my emotions. Most of my short stories come from an emotional tangle I want to pursue, an impossible situation I want to explore.

“Writing to Distraction,” Cedar Rapids Gazette

Writers tend to have their favorite themes and obsessions, and mine is grief. The grief of losing someone, the grief of not having something you want, or the grief of not feeling like you belong in your own skin . . .Grief is so interesting, in all its layers, its complexity, its power to haunt or ennoble us.