September 10, 2020

#BookReview: The Fear of Everything: Stories by John McNally






Synopsis: A magician shows up unexpectedly at a grade school. Retirees answer phone calls from lonely children. A sleep study assistant speaks to a patient about his own afterlife experiences. Twenty years ago, Richard Russo wrote of Troublemakers, John McNally is an electrifying writer whose stories burrow under the skin. His world becomes our world, his way of seeing, ours. Resistance is futile. The same is true of these nine stories that are by turns fantastical, hilarious, and heartbreaking.



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Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
My Review: This was a wonderful book that I could not put down. This book was dark and amazing and when I thought it was going to go one way it went a totally different way that I didn't even see was possible. It will make you laugh and cry and just utterly destroy you. 








Review

Like the magician in the first story of The Fear of Everything, John McNally is a master of sleight of hand, leading you, you think, one way, only to take you to someplace entirely different, entirely darker. And like the very best story writers, he can make you laugh all the way to the heartbreak, the shiver of realization when you finally see that things may not be quite as they seemed. Ranging from middle school classrooms to calls late in the night, from eerie disappearances to the people only longing for some kind of connection in the masterpiece title story, all these stories find John at the very top of his game. --Pete Fromm, author of Indian Creek Chronicles

The Fear of Everything is everything a short story collection should be. By turns hilarious, horrifying, and heartbreaking and sometimes all three at once these stories illuminate the glorious strangeness of the everyday world, in which the bright afternoons of childhood turn dark as quickly as a Midwestern sky fills with storm clouds, and ordinary people turn out sometimes to be monsters and sometimes to be capable of a kindness that surprises even themselves. With razor-sharp humor, big-hearted generosity, and a dash of the absurd, John McNally unearths an America of loneliness and longing, of vanished children and missing cats and men lost in grief, some of whom, now and then, are lucky enough to be found. An absolute delight. --Matthew Griffin, author of Hide

John McNally s excellent short story collection The Fear of Everything includes nine tales of subtle terror. Beginning with The Magician, this book marks its territory: it specializes in a kind of removed, intellectual suburban unease. These stories are not inhabited by traditional supernatural monsters, but rather by the specters of regret for decisions made or not made, and by the repercussions of unrealized opportunities and events long past. What seems a somewhat typical American scene a magician performing his act for a school classroom becomes a meditation on kidnapped children and the pain, resentment, and even violence that follows such an occurrence long after it s happened. Elements of the fantastic are seen throughout, as in The Phone Call, where Doug calls his old home phone number and speaks to his younger self and long dead mother. That plot device might seem familiar, and there s another link to fantasy tradition in young Doug s fascination with film monsters. But the story uses these touchstones as elements to expand the possibilities of the traditional fantasy/horror framework, delivering a haunting tale of regret and helplessness. The writing is grounded in realism, which makes its turns toward fantasy all the more affecting. Descriptions result in lingering images. In The Creeping End, a detective and his wife put their pet dog to sleep with the aid of their veterinarian: All three of them put their hands on the animal as though it were a sacred thing in possession of restorative powers. From a narrative detour into the past amid religious fervor and jealousy in antebellum Illinois, or a story revolving around a modern-day kitchen accident, each entry is compelling. The final tale is a bookend of sorts: a story about a missing girl, told through the eyes of an obsessed man. The Fear of Everything is a visceral, brainy collection whose dark, sophisticated stories are satisfying. --Peter Dabbene, Foreword Reviews

From the Back Cover

A magician shows up unexpectedly at a grade school. Retirees answer phone calls from lonely children. A sleep study assistant speaks to a patient about his own afterlife experiences. Twenty years ago, Richard Russo wrote of Troublemakers, "John McNally is an electrifying writer whose stories burrow under the skin. His world becomes our world, his way of seeing, ours. Resistance is futile." The same is true of these nine stories that are by turns fantastical, hilarious, and heartbreaking.

About the Author

John McNally is author or editor of seventeen previous books, including The Book of Ralph: A Novel and The Boy Who Really, Really Wanted to Have Sex: The Memoir of a Fat Kid. A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, John is Writer-in-Residence and the Dr. Doris Meriwether/BORSF Professor in English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.









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