Celebrating 75 Years

Wayne State University Press

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American Salvage

Bonnie Jo Campbell

Award Winner

Bestsellers, Fiction, Michigan

Made in Michigan Writers Series

Published: January 2010
ISBN: 9780814334867
Pages: 192 Size: 5x8
Published: March 2009
ISBN: 9780814334911

A story collection of rare impact. . . shaped by stealthy wit, stunning turns of events, and breathtaking insights.

— Booklist

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.

Bonnie Jo Campbell is the author of the novel Once Upon a River (July 2011, W.W. Norton). She was a 2009 National Book Award finalist and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for her collection of stories American Salvage, which won the Foreword Book of the Year award for short fiction. Campbell is also author of the novel Q Road and the story collection Women & Other Animals. She's received the AWP Award for Short Fiction, a Pushcart Prize, and the Eudora Welty Prize, and she has been awarded a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Her writing is raw, precise and unflinching, breaking down our picture of the human condition and throwing it back onto the scattered pile of puzzle pieces that best represent it. . . . As brutal as the details are, Campbell's tales feel like prayers that float upward, those for the poor, the addicted, the lost, and the forgotten. Stunning stuff."


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

  • 2009 National Book Award Finalist - Result: Finalist in the category of fiction
  • 2009 ForeWord Book of the Year - WINNER in the category of fiction-short stories
  • 2009 ForeWord Book of the Year - WINNER in the category of fiction-short stories
  • 2009 National Book Award Finalist - Result: Finalist in the category of fiction
  • 2010 Michigan Notable Book Awards - Result: 1 of 20 selected annually
  • 2010 National Book Critic Circle Book Award - Result: Finalist in the category of Fiction
  • 2010 Stuart and Vernice Gross Award for Excellence in Literature from SVSU - Result: Winner