University of Massachusetts Press

Juniper Prize for Fiction

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Juniper Prize for Fiction

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The Agriculture Hall of Fame

Stories

Andrew Malan Milward

These powerful stories limn the complexities and dilemmas of life in Kansas, a state at “the center of the center of America,” as a billboard in one story announces. Andrew Malan Milward explores the less visible aspects of the Kansas experience—where its agrarian past comes into conflict with the harsh present reality of drugs, fundamentalism, and corporatism, relegating its agrarian identity to museums and amusement parks. Presented in a triptych, the stories in Milward’s debut collection range across a varied terrain, from tumbledown rural barns to modern urban hospitals, revealing the secrets contained therein.

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All the News I Need

a novel

Joan Frank

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Bring Everybody

Stories

Dwight Yates

In this exhilarating collection of stories, Dwight Yates delivers the range of characters suggested in the title, many of them struggling to salvage situations they feel have been thrust upon them. Yet the smoking gun that accounts for the hole in the foot, is, more often than not, in the hand of the protagonist complaining of the pain. Self-delusion courts self-destruction in these stories, but not without relief, since revelation is always possible and redemption just might come tumbling after. Though the stakes are sometimes low and the circumstances more rueful than tragic, Yates illuminates the gulf between expectation and reality with humor and compassion. Seduction does not inevitably lead to abandonment in these tales, although that is certainly one outcome. A disastrous young marriage is another. In one case, a seducer comes to see that a chance encounter with an old flame has not closed an incomplete narrative from the past, but most likely has opened a perilous new chapter. Other stories investigate dormant dread awakened by the hiccup of circumstance. A family man's decision to stop and assist a stalled motorist does not imperil his family as his wife fears. Yet the encounter reveals a burden of faith and guilt that continues to haunt this Samaritan and prompts his irrational, yet perhaps admirable, behavior. In another family tale, a father struggles with the imminent independence of his daughter, a struggle that, like much in his life, is distorted by his curious infatuation with the insomnia afflicting him. The collection's final piece concerns an aging, retired accountant who, stricken with intimations of mortality, hastily attempts to become well loved and eventually handsomely eulogized by undertaking good works, an undertaking he persists in pursuing against mounting odds. Men and women tell many of their own stories here. In other outings, the telling rests with bemused and attentive narrators, crowding in close, better to witness the charm and folly of the memorable characters assembled in this prize-winning collection.

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Carbine

Stories

Greg Mulcahy

Inhabiting a world that offers no guarantee of any veracity, the characters in these peculiar stories are driven to and goaded by compulsive and perhaps pointless reflection. They are haunted by unrelenting consciousness and knowledge of failure, yet are, at best, ambivalent toward any conventional equation of success. Theirs is a world of broken relationships, futile memory, constant appetite, and the certain knowledge that they are winding down in a culture in which it is impossible to do—or know—the right thing. Frustrated and obsessed, they cannot articulate their lives and are entranced by the strangeness of the everyday. Written with keen intelligence and biting humor, Carbine is a book about the ridiculousness of contemporary life—a book about what cannot be said.

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Corner of the Dead

Lynn Lurie

This powerful novel depicts the reign of violence perpetrated in Peru in the 1980s by the Shining Path guerrillas, a Maoist-based organization, and the subsequent authoritarian counterattack by the Peruvian government. It explores these horrific events through the eyes of a young American photojournalist and humanitarian worker, Lisette, who bears witness to the genocide of the Peruvian Indians in whose village she has chosen to live. “I use the camera to block my view,” says Lisette. This is the start of her double vision—trying to forget and trying to recall—and her struggle to come to terms with the human capacity for cruelty. But the grim reality in Peru is so overpowering that she carries it with her back to New York and through the rest of her life. Having abandoned a lover along with the fight, she desperately tries to find meaning beyond that of mere survival.

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Desert sonorous

Stories

Sean Bernard

Undercover space aliens share an RV outside Tucson. A high school girl tries to make sense of the shooting of Gabby Giffords. Basketball fans stalk their team’s head coach. A young couple falls in and out of love over the course of several lifetimes. And teenage cross-country athletes run on and on through these ten stories set amid the strange desert landscapes of the American Southwest. Desert sonorous is a unique and energetic debut collection, blending realism with flashes of experimentation. Contemporary issues—immigration, drought, shootings—hover above a cast of memorable characters in search of life’s deeper meanings. As they struggle along, comic and resigned, intelligent and quiet, sad and frustrated, their strivings resound because their lives are in so many ways our own.

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The Guy We Didn't Invite to the Orgy

and other stories

David Ebenbach

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A History of Hands

A Novel

Rod Val Moore

This powerful novel begins with the ambiguities of illness and moves on to explore both the reasonable and the absurd actions of those who suffer and those who exploit suffering. The setting is a failed farm on the Central California coast during a time of rural isolation and decline. Virge, the protagonist, is an awkwardly introspective young man living with his parents, suffering from lingering effects of an accidental childhood poisoning, including a lack of coordination and the possibility of mental weakness. Within the first few pages, Virge trips, falls, and finds that his hands have become paralyzed—a potential disaster for someone unable to afford a doctor’s visit. Soon, however, an elderly and possibly criminal doctor, offering free therapy, moves in, much to the dismay of bedridden Virge. While the physician endeavors to restore the patient’s hands with a series of highly suspect injections, Virge recovers his sense of autonomy and an urge to escape the suffocating domestic circumstances that have perhaps caused his illnesses in the first place. A History of Hands is a novel that invites the reader into a richly and eccentrically detailed world where fevered imaginations and dark comedy prevail, but where the determination to escape the ambiguities of illness leads to the equal ambiguities of health and freedom.

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The Law of Miracles

Gregory Blake Smith

These stories take place in the space where the rational and irrational intersect—the space governed by The Law of Miracles. Writing with a remarkable range of invention, Gregory Blake Smith has created a world in which his characters navigate between the everyday and the extraordinary: an aged Russian woman who lives simultaneously in the St. Petersburg of iPods and BMWs and in the starving Leningrad of the Siege; a Venetian art conservator who loves the women of the Renaissance paintings he restores but cannot bear the touch of the woman at his side; a down-and-out slot-machine technician who calculates the probability of his wife’s dying. Yet for all their variety of setting and subject, there runs through each of these stories a thread of the miraculous, a suspicion that the transcendent lies just at the edge of perception. We watch the characters of The Law of Miracles struggle toward that transcendence, whether it be through love or art or violence, until we as readers feel—like the main character of the Pushcart Prize–winning “Presently in Ruins”—that if we could only parse the seemingly random details of our existence some new pattern of meaning would emerge, some new magic that would transform our lives.

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The Other One

Stories

Hasanthika Sirisena

Set in Sri Lanka and America, the ten short stories in this debut collection feature characters struggling to contend with the brutality of a decades-long civil war while also seeking security, love, and hope. The characters are students, accountants, soldiers, servants. They are immigrants and strivers. They are each forced to make sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, choices. What they share, despite what they’ve endured, is the sustaining power of human connection. An excerpt from the book: “All I want to know is when you are coming? When are you bringing my sons, my family?” She watched as a gecko, tinier than normal, skittered across the far wall. It disappeared into a small crack. The room was very hot, and she hadn’t turned on the ceiling fan so that the family could save a little money. She took a handkerchief from her nightstand and wiped the beads of sweat from her forehead and the back of her neck. “I can’t leave malli alone here. He’s making progress but—” “It will be for two years only. Then you can sponsor him.” “The lawyer says it’s not so easy.” “He’s a grown man. Let the government take him. The government did this to malli. Let the government pay the price for his care.” Even though there was no chance that her brother Ranjith could hear her, Anoja dropped her voice. “Malli is all alone here. He has nobody but aiya and me.”

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