What unites the unlikely protagonists in these daring and utterly unique short stories is their search for refuge. Whether the escape is real, like leaving the country, or like Lonnie in the title story who’s only telling people she lives in Italy, these characters are crushingly believable in their defenses, their damage, their humor, and their sheer will as they turn suffering into salvation. Full of disappearing children and surfacing secrets, fragile triumphs and imminent loss, these eloquent tales laced with hilarity and grief illuminate shared human truths about betrayal, rescue, the places we seek shelter, and the stories we tell ourselves to survive.
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In her third collection of short stories, Married, Living in Italy, veteran author Misty Urban proves once again she’s an exceptional storyteller. Not that she has anything to prove. Her long list of awards and accomplishments (she holds a Ph.D. in Old and Middle English Literature from Cornell University in addition to being a poet, essayist, and editor), shows she has the academic credentials, but it’s Urban’s unique craftsmanship, an ability to plumb the depths of the human experience with achingly beautiful prose, that reveals her as a natural born talent. And don’t let the title and cover art fool you, Urban’s stories are not sweet musings of a middle-aged couple’s European vacation, but a profoundly poignant, lyrical collection where Urban’s characters are forced to stay afloat in the wake of life’s most emotionally painful circumstances. In these twelve stories, the protagonists suffer the devastation of stillbirth, divorce, loneliness, missing persons, disillusionment, and death—so much death. Andrew, a man shouldering the burden of loss and lies in “The Last Word,” gives sardonic voice to one of the book’s themes: “It seems obvious, things die, get lost, get broken, go away. They just do.” But it’s the school-aged character, Mireya, in the final story, “The Far Shore,” who sits at the bedside of her comatose brother, looks out the window and reasons, “It was not evolution but decay that made sense….someday….this ruined thing will be beautiful.” Through this child’s honest observation we see the crux and heart of these narratives (and, oh, how Urban uses broken hearts—both physical and metaphorical—throughout the collection to wondrous effect), the question Urban asks repeatedly: how does one bear the weight of grief? With her signature dark humor and sharp wit (often revealing her love of etymology, how words and names are ballast in our lives, giving heft and meaning) Urban steers her readers through the choppy water of troubled lives, never once sinking into sentimentality or melodrama. Married, Living in Italy is a stunning collection, one you don’t want to miss.–Audra kerr brown, author of ‘hush hush hush’
Married, Living in Italy, Misty Urban’s third short story collection, is about grief, loss, longing, and survival despite it all. Urban demonstrates once again that she is a keen observer of the human condition, a skillful wordsmith who writes with powerful clarity, and an absorbing storyteller who commands your attention. The people and their stories stayed with me long after I finished the last page.–x.h. collins, author of ‘flowing water, falling flowers’
“If you’re too happy, something’s missing. . . It means something doesn’t matter enough.” Words of advice from the grandmother, Oma, in “A Many-Chambered Vessel,” one of a dozen poignant stories in Misty Urban’s new collection, Married, Living in Italy. Written with Urban’s beautifully crafted sentences, these stories are about what matters in all of our lives—losses of loved ones, losses of dreams. These losses matter whether they affect us directly, people we care about, or even casual acquaintances, and Urban’s stories depict how we struggle to cope with the losses that shape the rest of our lives.–karen musser nortman, author of the frannie shoemaker campground mysteries
Misty Urban delivers a collection of short stories that entice the senses and primes the reader for an exotic experience. Her imagination roams far afield and supplies new twists to familiar settings. Each story offers the reader the chance to explore a complex moment in a human life. An overworked waitress shows mercy. A ritual of fire proves cleansing and forgiving. The wounded in body and soul find ways to survive. Find out what happens when a carefully constructed fantasy world collides with reality. By challenging the reader with shifting landscapes, Urban uncovers the resilience of human nature and offers hope.–mary davidsaver, author of the bishop hill mysteries