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Wayne State University Press

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I Have the Answer

Kelly Fordon

Award Winner


Made in Michigan Writers Series

Published: April 2020
ISBN: 9780814347522
Pages: 216 Size: 5.5 x 8.5
Published: April 2020
ISBN: 9780814347539
Pages: 216 Size: EPUB

If you thought the suburbs were boring, think again. Kelly Fordon's I Have the Answer artfully mixes the fabulist with the workaday and illuminates relationships and characters with crisp, elegant prose and dark wit. The stories in Fordon's latest collection are disquieting, humorous, and thought-provoking. They might catch you off guard, but are always infused with deep humanity and tenderness.

In these thirteen short stories, Fordon presents people dealing with the grayness of reality and longing for transcendence. Characters within these stories are often as surprised by their own behavior as that of their neighbor's. In "Jungle Life," the narrator attempts to clarify and document the stories of his father, a war veteran, before he descends into dementia. In "Where's the Baby?" a woman reflects on her difficult childhood as she grudgingly cares for her more successful, yet exasperating sister. In "In the Dog House," a woman visits an estate sale and sifts through the layers of lifetimes past while grappling with her long-standing jealousy of a mysterious neighbor. In "The Shorebirds and The Shaman," a woman who has just lost her husband winds up at a kooky weekend retreat role-playing her way out of debilitating grief.

Award-winning author Desiree Cooper has called the stories in I Have the Answer "pitch perfect . . . Fordon takes us to the precipice where trauma and triumph are equal possibilities. The people in these stories are so hauntingly real that long after I put the book down, I found myself wondering what had become of them." Readers of contemporary fiction and short stories will enjoy mulling over the complicated feelings this collection evokes.

Kelly Fordon is the author of an award-winning short story collection, Garden for the Blind (Wayne State University Press, 2015); a poetry chapbook, The Witness, which won the Eric Hoffer Award for the Chapbook; and a poetry collection, Goodbye Toothless House.

With this surprising collection of stories set mostly in Michigan, Kelly Fordon takes her place among our most compassionate, insightful, and wry observers of contemporary American life. These are stories of mothers and daughters, wives and widows, rendered in prose that is at once poetic and plainspoken, with genuine heart and a connoisseur’s eye for the absurd.

– Will Allison, contributing editor at One Story Magazine

Like all bold, transcendent fiction, the stories in I Have the Answer end up answering intimate conundrums about love, identity, and relationships with ever more complicated questions. Fordon’s characters don’t seek to understand their lives so much as find a way to tell a different story about both the past and the future. Vanished husbands are re-imagined as pale images of the men they once were. Teens on the cusp of adulthood grapple with phantom limbs and the true meaning of exorcism and faith. To their skeptics’ surprise, ‘crazy’ characters who claim to have all the answers actually prove they do. Throughout these stories, Fordon’s sly humor about middle-class perks—Costco, grocery delivery services, trendy psychotherapy, binge shopping—bind together the women who both rue and rely upon these props. Fordon’s deft, lyrical writing and gentle yet pointed comedy create endearing, realistic characters looking for the very answers the reader hopes to find.

– Laura Hulthen Thomas, author of States of Motion (Wayne State University Press, 2017)

In Fordon’s gripping collection of stories about characters on the edge, we witness what happens when life deals a blow—divorce, addiction, empty nests, dementia, death—and they are forced to face the biggest unknown: themselves. In each pitch-perfect story, Fordon takes us to the precipice where trauma and triumph are equal possibilities. The people in these stories are so hauntingly real that long after I put down this book, I found myself wondering what became of them.

– Desiree Cooper, author of Know the Mother (Wayne State University Press, 2016)

Kelly Fordon’s I Have the Answer is a remarkable, penetrating, and moving collection that explores what it means to be a good neighbor, a good parent, a good spouse, and a good human being. From New Guinea during the Second World War to suburban Michigan of today, Fordon maps the contours of the heart with an exquisite delicacy and a generosity of spirit entirely unequaled in American fiction. Rare is the author who can bring so much genuine compassion to her characters, despite all of their foibles and flaws, and rarer still the writer who can entertain us immensely as we follow her beloved creations. I Have the Answer exudes emotional truths, as certain as they are surprising, on every page.

– Jacob M. Appel, author of Millard Salter’s Last Day

In a narrative voice that is stunning and pristine, Kelly Fordon’s I Have the Answer presents characters who suffer in a self-made darkness of secrets, desires, and longing. While going through the motions of their suburban lives, they are at the mercy of the unraveling of normalcy. In each story, we are reminded that underneath the facade of having it all, nothing is simple or easy.

– Melissa Grunow, author of I Don’t Belong Here

Fordon’s stories hold up a mirror to our shared humanity, breathing three-dimensional life into her characters through a rotating prism of joy, tragedy, triumph, and heartbreak. This collection joins the ranks of such illustrious contemporary short story writers as Alice Munro, Jeffrey Eugenides, James Salter, and Aimee Bender.

– R. J. Fox, author Love & Vodka, Awaiting Identification, and Tales from the Dork Side

What a great collection! Again and again, Kelly Fordon’s characters charm and disarm us as they face death, divorce, the departure of a maddening child, a diagnosis of dementia, and even molestation. As the world crumbles, they must ask themselves the question, How do I live now? In these big-hearted stories, the answer is to be found in life itself, in living as an act of courage, and living as an art form. Like Lorrie Moore, Fordon proves that comedy is a worthy opponent of tragedy. Times are hard—they’re always hard—so read this book and you’ll feel better!

– Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters

Fordon’s talent is powerful, unmissable. Her stories are absurd and also deeply true. She can shift from amusing to heartbreaking in a moment and leave you with goose bumps. Whether it is a war story relayed by an Alzheimer’s sufferer, or a reluctant therapy group member trying to expose a phony—these stories might make you cry but they’ll make you laugh first.

– Emily Schultz, author of Little Threats

I followed Kelly Fordon’s characters with love and tears through their ‘lifetime of drift’ until they connected emotional dots and arrived at an answer that allowed them to summon their internal superhero with all the clarity and energy at their command. These are stories of hope.

– Lolita Hernandez, author of Making Callaloo in Detroit (Wayne State University Press, 2014) and Autopsy of an Engine and Other Stories from the Cadillac Plant

Kelly Fordon is a smart and generous writer, and her stories are full of perception, wit, intelligence, and a startling visionary air. This is a collection that engages from first page to last.

– Fred Leebron, author of Six Figures and Welcome to Christiania

Reading I Have the Answer by Kelly Fordon made me more keen to get to know my neighbor. Because just like me, she is living a life to the best of her ability and her story matters. [. . .] This short story collection is a simmering display of adulthood and the challenges people face around us in silence and in shame. It is incredibly human and eloquently full of emotional truth. Some of the stories force you to stop dead in your tracks and bear witness with your whole, entire body.

– Maggie Briana Chidester, The Bookslut

What a beautiful book! As I finished the last of these astute, moving, and often funny stories, I was reminded of something a fellow writer once said to an audience of fans: 'What I want is not so much that you'll get into my book but that my book will get into you.'

– Julia Glass, National Book Award winner

A shrewd and probing volume of literary tales.

– Kirkus Reviews

The author has a fine touch for breathing life into her characters and making their lives meaningful and real.

– Tom Powers, Michigan in Books

Kelly Fordon is so good at telling real stories about real people, regulars folks who face irregular situations. Because she’s so skilled at characterizing her protagonists, it’s easy to empathize with their trauma, to see myself in their shoes. I Have the Answer isn’t always a true statement here—in fact, it almost never is—but it does make for a good book, one I’m glad I spent time with today.

– Michael Czyzniejewski, Story366

This collection is perfectly timed—all of our shared experience in the pandemic makes us crave normalcy, but also validation that we’re not the only ones feeling the way we do. I Have the Answer is a perfect fill for that feeling. The stories go through a huge range of experiences, showing that there is a way to get through the every-day difficulties as well as the monumental events. There’s so much to be found in the pages of this collection, and thoroughly I enjoyed every page.

– Bayleigh Kasper, The Sundress Blog

Fordon’s stories are a wonderfully complex look at life and how our expectations can bump up against our realities. The stories are sobering and yet, I found myself comforted by them.

– Jeff Vande Zande, Jeff Vande Zande Blog

  • 2020 Midwest Book Awards - Result: Finalist in the category of Fiction: Short Story/Anthology
  • 2021 Eric Hoffer Book Awards - Result: Eric Hoffer 2021 Finalist