Getting Lucky: 20 New and
Selected Stories, 1982-2012
by Thomas E. Kennedy New American Press

"Before he leaves, he looks in on his father one more time and is startled to find him awake, his face awash in the flicker of the flatscreen, but his dark eyes are fixed on Sklar's, and in them, he sees an expression he has never before seen—not in his father's eyes, not anywhere. It is as though the man is looking back at him from the other side, as though he is about to vanish but his spirit is still glowing, like a dwarf star, dark one."

While many of the short stories featured in this collection have been previously published elsewhere, what makes it unique is its broad scope. The collection includes works from Kennedy's earliest published works in what he terms "uninformed realism" all the way through his experiments in surrealism, magical realism, absurdism, metafiction, and back full circle to realism.

Regarding the realism that characterizes his work today, Kennedy says, "one of the things that I came to understand with those experiments is that anything in a story—as anything in a dream—is magical regardless whether the story is realism or magical realism."

For those unfamiliar with his work, Kennedy is an award-winning writer with stories appearing in Glimmer Train, The Literary Review, Fiction, Rosebud, South Carolina Review, Patchwork of Dreams, Black Warrior Review, Missouri Review, New Delta Review, Crosscurrents, Literary Olympians, The Girl with Red Hair, American Fiction, Confrontation, Writers Notes, Gulf Coast, and The Booktrader Christmas Album. Awards Kennedy has won include the Pushcart Prize, an O. Henry Award, the Charles Angoff Award, and the Gulf Coast Short Story Competition.

Within his stories, Kennedy uses a light hand to delve into the deep philosophical questions that plague mankind. His stories are entertaining without being preachy, entertaining while still delivering an intriguing moral message.

Largely influenced by questions of religion and faith, each section represents a different element of Kennedy's writing. For example, section one, entitled "The Sins of Generals," represents Kennedy's early realist work. The section features stories that explore everything from the existence of God to the nature of sin to the misunderstood love of families and the creative process. In the section entitled "Unreal City," the stories take on a more surrealistic tone as his characters discover infinitely deeper elements of themselves through the process of almost every day life. Other sections, "Drive, Dive, Dance & Fight," "Cast Upon the Day," and "Last Night My Bed a Boat of Whiskey Going Down" feature some combination of these as the author plays with his stories, eventually allowing the characters to emerge as part of the writing process. As different as the stories are from each other, they are all characterized by similar themes of redemption or condemnation, sometimes in quite surprising ways.

It is this natural development of character that causes Kennedy's work to stand out. Well-known author Andre Dubus says, "His characters are full, alive, and each story is rich and deep. He writes with wisdom, and it is perhaps that wisdom which turns some of his stories of great sorrow into something triumphant."

More than just the content, Kennedy's writing is stylistically appealing. Avoiding extraneous description, he paints vivid scenes full of emotion, real-world concerns and the momentary pettiness of everyday existence within the very structure of the story itself. Energetic style accompanies energetic scenes, introspective nighttime vigils are given longer pause. As one becomes lost in the various worlds of these stories, it becomes very clear why Kennedy has won his awards. The artistry of the writing combined with the deep meaning of the content is a magic all its own.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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