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Wayne State University Press

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In Which Brief Stories Are Told

Phillip Sterling

Award Winner

Fiction, Michigan

Made in Michigan Writers Series

Paperback
Published: March 2011
ISBN: 9780814335079
Pages: 144 Size: 5x8
eBOOK
Published: March 2011
ISBN: 9780814335352
Review

Sterling fearlessly wades into mystery and comes back with his hands full of uncanny insights, humor, and some devastating pathos. 'What We Don't Know,' one of my favorites from this collection, should be required reading for all humans.”

— Andy Mozina

In Which Brief Stories Are Told presents a collage of moments in the lives of average people—car salesmen and motel maids, mothers and fathers, neighbors and professional colleagues—with small-town northern Michigan as a backdrop. Author Phillip Sterling invites readers to share his characters’ small tragedies and victories in fifteen deceptively simple, intimate stories. While varied in length from short glimpses to longer narratives, each of the stories is defined by a unique perspective, as characters present their version of a story—sometimes other peoples’ stories—clouded by the same emotion, judgment, and passing of time that inhabit all of our memories.

The stories in this collection contain laments and mysteries: a car salesman implicates himself in a crime that he is not sure ever took place, a third-shift convenience store clerk accepts her unfortunate disfigurement, dinner parties generate jealousy and resignation among their participants, a sister’s disappearance creates a long-standing familial black hole, a sailboat comes to symbolize the longing of an elderly couple, and a daughter finds answers in her father’s speechlessness. In what is often unspoken or unacknowledged, Sterling’s narrators draw readers into complicity. Readers will identify with these characters, who weigh the what-ifs and could-haves at length, often for longer than it takes to recount the actual events of their stories, revealing the telltale signs of our own heartache, guilt, or feelings of forgiveness in the process.

Sterling’s realistic and intriguing stories offer haunting glimpses of characters and situations that are original but familiar. Readers of short fiction and enthusiasts of Michigan stories will enjoy this unique collection.

Phillip Sterling is the author of Mutual Shores and three chapbook-length series of poems: Abeyance (winner of the Frank Cat Press Chapbook Award 2007), Quatrains, and Significant Others. The recipient of an NEA Fellowship, two Fulbright Lectureships, and a P.E.N. Syndicated Fiction Award, he is also the editor of Imported Breads: Literature of Cultural Exchange and founding coordinator of the Literature in Person (LIP) Reading Series at Ferris State University, where he has taught writing and literature since 1987.

– Citiation Missing

Each of the 15 pieces in the new book, whether two pages or 10, brings to life the raw emotions and tiny details of people caught in the crevasses of life."

– Ann Byle, The Grand Rapids Press

Sterling likes to come at a story from oblique angles, lending an air of displacement to the telling… It's almost a sleight-of-hand; Sterling presents us with a puzzle-why is the man crying? [in What We Don't Know"]-and then guides us into a different narrative altogether, leaving us satisfied that this is where we wanted to be all along… The author's awareness of the complexity of lives modestly lived allows him to create fully realized characters within the confines of his brief stories and leads his readers toward the fleeting glimpses of truth which flicker through our own lives."

– Matthew C. Smith, New Pages, June 2011

There is no fluff, no filler, no tricks, in this story collection by Phillip Sterling. He gives us a concise, collected, beautiful series of stories, all set in Michigan, all seemingly with a running theme-resignation to life's events as they are."

– Joe Sullivan, Gently Read Literature, December 2011

Sterling's stories on the whole are taut, suspenseful, emotionally powerful renderings of ordinary lives caught in moments of high drama. Though brief, they are long on the significant particulars that make his characters experiences vivid and convincing.

– Greg Johnson, The Georgia Review

Sterling fearlessly wades into mystery and comes back with his hands full of uncanny insights, humor, and some devastating pathos. 'What We Don't Know,' one of my favorites from this collection, should be required reading for all humans."

– Andy Mozina, author of The Women Were Leaving the Men (Wayne State University Press, 2007)

In this meditation on the effects of silence and absence, Sterling creates vivid characters bewildered by the present, who journey to the past, both physically and through memory, in search of the lost and missing-a sister, a mother's love, a father's voice. These beautifully rendered, lyrical stories are brimming with heart, depth, and wisdom."

– Genni Gunn, author of Solitaria

One of the most anticipated books of the beginning of 2011.

– The Huffington Post

In Which Brief Stories Are Told is easy reading with vivid plots and an enhanced storyline. Those interested in short stories will find this book to be amazing.

– Barry Lewis

In plainspoken language, the stories leave a lasting impression. Some of them end with a twist, many of them are full of Michigan imagery. Take the time to track down this slim volume. You will be glad you did."

– Joyce Pines

  • 2011 ForeWord Book of the Year Award - Result: Finalist in the Short Stories category
  • 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year Award - Result: Finalist in the Short Stories category
  • 2012 Midwest Book Awards - Finalist in the category of Fiction: Short Story/Anthology