The Wrong Heaven

The Wrong Heaven


Book - 2018
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A collection of short stories, including the title story in which Cheryl, a school teacher, finds that the plastic lawn ornament of Jesus and Mary she purchased is talking to her.


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Nov 20, 2018

EA Poe was an early and influential writer about the importance of endings (of stories, and perhaps of lives) in any creative narrative. Raymond Carver honed his final sentences into an insurmountable art form. Amy Bonnaffons channels both men in Wrong Heaven, her spectacular debut collection of ten stories rich with endings of undeniable virtuosity.
Equal parts playful, profound, and wonderfully profane, these stories focus on women at various stages in their lives, but who collectively are “starting to believe, like other adults” that they “should start pretending to know more than [they] do.” But as we all eventually discover, such belief is fraught with perils of many angles and articulations.
In “The Other One,” as example, lawyer Chris takes her lunch hours to sing (obsessively) her karoake version of Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket.” Searching for meaning (in the song and in her life), she asks (and sometimes answers) a series of philosophical questions that linger across this collection: “What moral life wasn’t Sisyphean, tilted toward failure as much as success? The best one could do, it seemed, was to accept the paradox and try to really f****** enjoy oneself in the breaks between pushing the rock uphill.”
Like so many uphill climbs captured in the collection, Chris’s questions inevitably probe the edges of a psycho-emotional place that exists beyond language. When asked to articulate the sense of loss that weighs on her life, she is almost paralyzed, left without words: “I had no idea how to begin.”
Not surprisingly, moments of silence are densely packed with meaning in these stories. Two strangers silently make s’mores over a burning plastic statue of Jesus, watching “the marshmallow’s skin slowly turning into gold, kissed again and again by the edge of the flame.” An angel hovers carefully (as in full of care) and trapped in his own thoughts above the body of a dead woman in the heartbreakingly brilliant “Black Stones.”
The Wrong Heaven is not flawless. Bonnaffons over-intellectualizes “Horse,” one of the longer stories, to be sure. But quibbles, minor quibbles. Mark these words: The Wrong Heaven delivers a brilliant new voice into the literary world. Pay attention.

robertafsmith Oct 05, 2018

Roberta's pick: In this first collection of short stories Amy Bonnaffons shows an amazing ability to be both direct and oblique, and hit her target every time. Great title plus Madonna covers are IN and this is one of the best.


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