Addendum to a Photo Album by Vladislav Otroshenko

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Tempestuous Impetuosity

About three pages into Vladislav Otroshenko’s surreal tragicomedy Addendum to a Photo Album I stopped and thought to myself, “Uh oh, boy am I in trouble.” I paused not because this short novel isn’t quite wonderful—it is—or because the translation is subpar—it isn’t—but rather because I quickly came to the realization that I was going to need to pay very careful attention to what was I was reading if I wanted to understand exactly what was occurring. I’m still not sure that I fully comprehended it all, but man was it an absolute joy to read.

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Happy are the Happy by Yasmina Reza

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Clap Your Hands

It’s odd talking about happiness as if it’s somehow this attainable thing always just beyond our reach when the truth is, as soon as we finally realize that one burning desire that we’ve carried for so long, the moment of actual enjoyment is a fleeting one, and then another goal quickly rises to the surface to take it’s place. We’re forever chasing what we think will make us happy, but when that person, that thing, that job, that object of our endless yearning, finally becomes our ours?  We’re never quite satisfied by it, not completely.

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A CONVERSATION WITH JOHN MICHAEL CUMMINGS

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In his most recent novel, John Michael Cummings explores a painful and traumatic intersection of  family and mental illness.  As we mentioned in our review of the book, Don’t Forget Me, Bro is not a heart-warming family tale of redemption and faith, but it is “an engrossing, honest, and empathetic account of the bravery, will-power, and perseverance it takes to endure mental illness on a daily basis.”

This week, we had a chance to get to know John Michael Cummings a little better and to further explore the influences and motivations behind Don’t Forget Me, Bro.  What follows is a heartfelt and poetic conversation about trauma, memory, mental illness, fear, and perseverance…with a little added flair of Bruce Springsteen and The Hardy Boys:

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Don’t Forget Me, Bro by John Michael Cummings

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You can’t, you shouldn’t, go home again.  Still you do, and must

John Michael Cummings’s recent novel is a heartbreaking and highly-charged portrait of one family’s struggle with abuse, mental illness, death and grief.  When narrator Mark Barr’s bother dies unexpectedly, he must return to his hometown of Alma, West Virginia after a decade of absence to honor Steve’s last wishes and bury him next to their grandfather.  But when Mark’s family cannot agree on how to handle Steve’s physical remains, emotions run high and each member of the family must face their personal demons before healing can begin.

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Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken

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The soul is liquid, and slow to evaporate.  The body’s a bucket and liable to slosh.

A 2014 National Book Award finalist, Thunderstruck has certainly earned its place among competing titles.  Comprised of 9 short stories, Elizabeth McCracken’s collection is nothing short of haunting – and I’m not just saying that because we’re getting close to Halloween.  These unforgettable tales are mesmerizing and devastating as McCracken explores aspects of love, grief, family, death, companionship and loneliness.

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