– I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. –
Long considered a master of the form and an essential voice in American fiction, Michael Knight’s stories have been lauded by writers such Ann Patchett, Elizabeth Gilbert, Barry Hannah, and Richard Bausch. Now, with Eveningland he returns to the form that launched his career, delivering an arresting collection of interlinked stories set among the “right kind of Mobile family” in the years preceding a devastating hurricane.
Grappling with dramas both epic and personal, from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the “unspeakable misgivings of contentment,” Eveningland captures with crystalline poeticism and perfect authenticity of place the ways in which ordinary life astounds us with its complexity. A teenaged girl with a taste for violence holds a burglar hostage in her house on New Year’s Eve; a middle aged couple examines the intricacies of their marriage as they prepare to throw a party; and a real estate mogul in the throes of grief buys up all the property on an island only to be accused of madness by his daughters. These stories, told with economy and precision, infused with humor and pathos, excavate brilliantly the latent desires and motivations that drive life forward.
I chose this book because…
You know that I’m interested in the little things in life, the ordinary life and its complexity. It seems a juxtaposition, but I don’t doubt it for one second. I can’t wait to burn through this collection of stories. Seven stories for the price of one book! Please tell me more about this badass teenage girl; oh gosh I can imagine the stress and things that might come up between a couple hosting a party; the real estate mogul is curious and I wonder if he really is mad or if it’s a scheme.
Upon reading it…
My favourite stories from this collection were “Smash and Grab” and “Water and Oil.” “Smash and Grab” is the story about “a teenaged girl with a taste for violence [who] holds a burglar hostage in her house on New Year’s Eve,” and “Water and Oil” is a story about a teenaged boy who is working at his father’s marina, worries about the leak at an offshore oil rig polluting the marina, and falls in love with one of girls working there (at the marina, not the oil rig; it’s not a Romeo and Juliet kind of thing haha).
The stories are subtle, and conflict is not always at the forefront. They’re ordinary, if you will. I’ve always thought that I was the kind of person who enjoyed the charm of a small town—Stars Hollow, Maycomb, etc.—but maybe I’m not such a small town girl. I found that I personally am drawn to stories that have a little more action going on, which is probably why “Smash and Grab” was one of my favourites, but nonetheless, this was a solid collection.
Knight has a way with words. For some reason, particular instances of personification really stood out to me and made me go, I want to write like that: “nights desperate with stars,” “a memorable tip,” “shifting sands were conspiring to fill in the harbor.”
He could not have explained the intensity of his attraction to Dana Pint, that blissful ache that welled up in his chest at the sight of her barefooting across the dock, the feeling a distant cousin of nostalgia, as if he’d already won and loved and lost her.
After believing in goodness for no good reason his whole life. In the same way that black is the presence of all colors and nothing, the boy felt so smudged over, he no longer felt a thing.
On the surface, eventually, the world returns to normal. Only time reveals how it has been changed.
I recall that sensation so clearly from my own boyhood. You suppose all those hours will feel like freedom but they don’t. Too many to fill. No satisfaction in them.
I can tell you this: there will be other girls, other disasters. And there will be nights to come, his life mostly behind him, when he will long to hurt like that again.
He thought how closely linked were love and pain.
Her favorite students were the second graders, miniature untarnished versions of their future selves, old enough to be interested and to understand but still young enough that they weren’t bound up by self-consciousness and attitude.
If creativity comes from God then isn’t all art religious?
I gave up giving things up.
You had to return to this life to speak of the other side.
Why shouldn’t life be sweet as summer all year round?
How long must a man live before the world is drained of fear and wonder?
Everybody’s crazy. Especially in love.
Sadness. The word itself didn’t do the feeling justice.
There was a kind of comfort in its inescapabilty. He would never have to choose.
In that moment, he was sure of two things: first that her loneliness was incurable except by time and second that its incurability was beside the point.
So many stupid ways to live and die.
What were the chances a moment like this, exactly like this, would ever come along in her life again.