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Wayne State University Press

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Voices of the Lost and Found

Dorene O'Brien

Award Winner

By WSU Faculty, Fiction

Made in Michigan Writers Series

Published: May 2007
ISBN: 9780814333464
Pages: 192 Size: 5.5 x 7.5
Published: May 2007
ISBN: 9780814335314
Pages: 192 Size: EPUB

Fierce, economical, completely persuasive, and compelling, Voices of the Lost and Found is like the strongest and rawest prose by a poet from an American folk tradition that we know exists but seldom hear from.

— Shirley Geok-Lin Lim

Voices of the Lost and Found is the first full-length collection of fiction from accomplished Metro Detroit writer Dorene O’Brien. In eleven first-person stories, a variety of authentic and unexpected voices come to the forefront to confess or retell stories of lost innocence or betrayal—from the urban graffiti artist who plots the downfall of a rival gang, to the middle-aged woman reliving a harrowing childhood abduction, to the young man who remodels his house in a misguided attempt to win back his wife, to the teenager who is lured into a crime spree after trusting a dark and disturbed friend.

The startlingly real speakers of Voices of the Lost and Found are drawn directly from contemporary culture, and together they present a striking portrait of alienation, volatility, diversity, and violence in postmodern America. O’Brien’s characters inhabit diverse yet familiar landscapes, including abandoned buildings, convenience stores, university dorms, crisis intervention centers, Buddhist retreats, and psychiatrists’ offices. Here, the lonely and troubled characters face tremendous obstacles that will ultimately transform their lives. When they meet tragedy, as they often do, they are forced to confront their liability and the realization that faulty decisions have irrevocable consequences. Told with honesty and intense emotion, the stories allow readers to experience the full weight of each character’s particular burden and to understand his or her complex personal motivations firsthand.

Though the voices change, the tone of the collection is consistently strong and convincing, bringing forth a fresh perspective on both contemporary social issues and modern angst. This adventurous and memorable collection of short fiction will appeal to a diverse audience.

Dorene O’Brien is a fiction writer and a teacher of creative writing at the College for Creative Studies and Wayne State University in Detroit. She has won numerous awards for her fiction, including the Bridport Prize for her short story "#12 Dagwood on Rye," Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award for "Riding the Hubcap," and the New Millennium Writings Fiction Award for "Ovenbirds." In 2004 she was also awarded a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

This dark, vivid collection brings to mind the stories of Mary Gaitskill and Joyce Carol Oates, but in the end, O'Brien's voice is very much her own, blazingly original, calling to life an unforgettable gallery of desperate characters. Their voices-vibrant and broken, wistful and defiant-stay with you, echoing in your ears long after the last page.

– Megan Abbott, author of Queenpin, The Song Is You, and Die a Little

Fierce, economical, completely persuasive, and compelling, Voices of the Lost and Found is like the strongest and rawest prose by a poet from an American folk tradition that we know exists but seldom hear from.

– Shirley Geok-Lin Lim, professor of English at University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Joss and Gold and Among the White Moon Faces

As numerous awards testify, O'Brien's talent, her sheer virtuosity, has long been apparent. Here we get a sampling of her multiple voices - young and old, men and women, rich and poor; funny, tragic, mad; lost and found. In reading her, Nathaniel West comes to mind, and Flannery O'Connor: that flinty unflinchingness before life's inexplicabilities, that defiant laugh in the face of darkness.

– Christopher Leland, professor of English at Wayne State University and author of Letting Loose

On the whole, O'Brien's imagination is strong and the collection's range of situations and variety of voices striking. She handles action and violence remarkably well.

– Choice

Voices of the Lost and Found is a collection to be read enthusiastically for its invention and its heart, as well as for its intelligence and sensitivity, its sense of the comic, the absurd, the fusion of human incongruities that serve to clarify our place in the world. Dorene O'Brien is a real talent, and I feel lucky to have been introduced to her work, which is intense and painful, and, at her best, resonant and quite lovely.

– Jack Driscoll, writer-in-residence at Interlochen Center for the Arts and author of Lucky Man, Lucky Woman and How Like an Angel: A Novel

Voices of the Lost and Found, a collection of short fiction by Michigan author Dorene O'Brien, is brilliant. So brilliant, that trying to chase and pin down the exact thread of fabric that makes it brilliant is like attempting to outrun one's own shadow. It's well conceived and tightly written with expert dialogue and fresh content. Readers attracted to quality fiction and dark themes will find a new favorite author in O'Brien.

– Grand Rapids Press

These gritty and mostly depressing stories are best savored when read over a longer period of time; O'Brien displays superb craftsmanship as she delves into a variety of human relationships."

– Lansing State Journal

  • 2008 National Best Books Awards - Result: WINNER in the Fiction & Literature: Short Story Fiction category