ASTRAY by Emma Donaghue: A Review of a Short Story Collection

As I read the stories in this 2012 published collection, several seemed familiar, and I finally realized where I had originally read them. I had encountered them in The New Yorker over a period of time. Although I did not recall the author’s name, her style and type of topic her stories are based on was what rang a bell. Many of the stories are based on newspaper clippings or snippets of history.

The Houston Chronicle referred to it as “one of the best books of the year” in 2012, and every story is of “New Yorker quality”, whether a longer piece or a very short, short story. The book is divided into three sections: “Departures” (My favorite of this section was “The Widow’s Cruise” where a scheming lawyer decides to take advantage of a grieving widow, only to have his plan boomerang on him.), “In Transit” (My favorite of this section was “The Body Swap” which tells of a little known plan to steal and hold for ransom Abraham Lincoln’s corpse.  Its denouement is a humorous, “gotcha” ending which made me chuckle.), and “Arrivals and Aftermaths,” more or less miscellaneous stories (My favorite  of this section was the shocking and true story, “Daddy’s Girl.”).

The author chose her title expressed in the front from a thought in Virgil’s Aenid:

“…We wander, ignorant of men and places,

And driven by the wind and the vast waves.”

Indeed, all of the characters in all of the stories have gone adrift or “astray” in some way or another.

It is a masterful collection.

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Author: Rae Longest

This year, I will have been a member of AAUW (American Association of University Women) for fifty years, a life time member (which means my fellow AAUW members will begin to pay my annual dues. (ha ha) In the 80's we began a book group to share our love of reading, books,and fellowship with other women and girls who loved the same. We resurrected the group on-line in September of 2015 and went on from there (See "Introduction",first blog). This is my first experience at blogging or publishing anything and is becomes more fun with each blog posted. I am currently teaching as an adjunct at The University of Houston Clear Lake. This makes my 27th year there after three years at Alvin Community College and an almost-twenty year career as a classroom teacher with Alvin Independent School District. Reading and writing are "in my blood" just like teaching is. I hope you enjoy the blog.

6 thoughts on “ASTRAY by Emma Donaghue: A Review of a Short Story Collection”

      1. It’s the book where she wrote in the pov of a 5 yr old boy whose mother had been kidnapped and they were both living in a garden shed where they’d been imprisoned since before Jack was born.

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      1. No, not really. I won’t deny there are parts that are grim and parts that are frightening, but it is also very funny – and moving. I think it’s a remarkable read and it is certainly a book that has stayed with me.

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