Pages: 192 Size: 5x8
American Salvage captures its subject so convincingly, and from such surprising angles, that even a reader comfortable with the trappings of contemporary rural fiction may feel Campbell's rural ache as if for the first time.
— Fiction Writers Review
New from award-winning Michigan writer Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage is rich with local color and peopled with rural characters who love and hate extravagantly. They know how to fix cars and washing machines, how to shoot and clean game, and how to cook up methamphetamine, but they have not figured out how to prosper in the twenty-first century. Through the complex inner lives of working-class characters, Campbell illustrates the desperation of post-industrial America, where wildlife, jobs, and whole ways of life go extinct and the people have no choice but to live off what is left behind.
The harsh Michigan winter is the backdrop for many of the tales, which are at turns sad, brutal, and oddly funny. One man prepares for the end of the world-scheduled for midnight December 31, 1999-in a pole barn with chickens and survival manuals. An excruciating burn causes a man to transcend his racist and sexist worldview. Another must decide what to do about his meth-addicted wife, who is shooting up on the other side of the bathroom door. A teenaged sharpshooter must devise a revenge that will make her feel whole again. Though her characters are vulnerable, confused, and sometimes angry, they are also resolute. Campbell follows them as they rebuild their lives, continue to hope and dream, and love in the face of loneliness.
Fellow Michiganders, fans of short fiction, and general readers will enjoy this poignant and affecting collection of tales.
In American Salvage, Bonnie Jo Campbell picks through the ravages of a small-town America gutted by shifting demographics, new technology, and methamphetamine. Eschewing nostalgia or bitterness, she leads with her curiosity, using canny observation and sensuous prose to coax the reader into dark, strange, primordial territory.
– National Book Award Judges' Citation
I came away from reading American Salvage not only thinking about its literary beauty, but looking at people differently, thinking about their lives, pondering how writing about such damaged, luminous fictional characters can engender, if only momentarily, empathy and compassion, an altered way of seeing. . . . It's a book to take to heart.
– Skip Renker, 360 Main Street, 360 Main Street
American Salvage is not a book for the cowardly. These daring stories, these desperate characters, would just as soon steal your wallet, break your heart or punch you in the gut than openly admit that redemption is possible during these dark times. But it is just this improbable hope that makes her work brilliant. This is Bonnie Jo Campbell at her bravest and best.
– Rachael Perry, author of How to Fly
A strong collection. The pieces are rich in original detail, and highly atmospheric, while maintaining a satisfying sense of familiar territory, local voices."
– Laura Kasischke, author of The Life before Her Eyes and Lilies Without<br />
Most authors imitate life, while only a few create life. Bonnie Jo Campbell creates 'em then lets her create-lings live according to their own wills."
– Carolyn Chute, author of The School on Hearts Content Road
At their best these stories reflect what Robert Lowell refers to as 'the grace of accuracy,' which might simply be a way of saying that the voice overall convinces at every turn. By voice I mean personality, and these quirky, surprising, sometimes arcane and visceral and big-hearted stories resonate in ways that keep me nodding. . . . I love the risk of each story and how, in the midst of hilarity, a much more serious concern unfolds so that I'd find myself both laughing out loud and squeezing my heart dry simultaneously."
– Jack Driscoll, author of How Like an Angel
2008 National Book Award Finalist - Result: Finalist in the category of fiction
2008 ForeWord Book of the Year - WINNER in the category of fiction-short stories
2009 Michigan Notable Book Awards - Result: 1 of 20 selected annually
2009 National Book Critic Circle Book Award - Result: Finalist in the category of Fiction
2009 Stuart and Vernice Gross Award for Excellence in Literature from SVSU - Result: Winner