Jaimee Wriston Colbert
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PRAISE FOR "VANISHING ACTS":
Vanishing Acts dramatizes what doesn’t disappear: a mother’s love for her son and for her own mother, the wages of loyalty, the terror of abandonment, and the possibility of transformation. Jaimee Wriston Colbert’s fierce intelligence is at work in every sentence of this deeply felt novel about generational trauma. Once I started, I couldn’t stop reading and found myself gasping at the choices these fully realized characters make. In this daring, beautifully executed novel Colbert shows us that whatever we imagined to be an illusion might be entirely real.
—Lee Upton, author of The Tao of Humiliation and Visitations: Stories
If serious writing attempts, as William Matthews says, "...to speak what it feels like to be human," than lucky the reader who discovers Jaimee Wriston Colbert's Vanishing Acts, her characters as compassionately rendered as any I have encountered in a long time. As one of them muses, "...he should become an artist and try at least [to] paint this thing, color its painful truth so others could know it too." And now I do, having read this hauntingly beautiful novel, the prose, sentence by sentence, resonant and as deeply considered as the generational story it tells. I not only applaud its heart, and craft, and courage, I do so loudly, gratefully.
– Jack Driscoll, The Goat Fish and the Lover’s Knot; The World of a Few Minutes Ago
PRAISE FOR "WILD THINGS":
Brace yourself for Jaimee Wriston Colbert’s Wild Things. These linked rural noir stories unfold their wings near the Susquehanna River in a landscape graced by wildlife and haunted by lost prosperity, “business after business failing, padlocking their doors, factories with their boarded up windows, just another has-been town slowly shutting down.” Those left behind must navigate the meth labs and broken families and their own oversized yearning. “Abstinence may lead you to god,” says one of Colbert’s women, “but it’s hunger that’ll get you fed.” These characters sing their hunger and dance their hard-won wisdom. These brilliant, surprising stories defy gravity and take flight.
— Bonnie Jo Campbell, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, Once Upon A River, and National Book Award finalist for American Salvage
Jaimee Wriston Colbert is a storyteller of the first order, and Wild Things is immensely rewarding. A must read for short story lovers, the voice not only captivatingly original, but downright addictive. I did not want the collection to end, and for days afterward I could still hear that pitch-perfect blend of lyric and narrative whispering in my ear. Without question this is her finest book so far!
—Jack Driscoll, The World of A Few Minutes Ago
A tremendous new collection from a writer with extraordinary powers of observation and an empathetic understanding of the thorny, heartbreaking human condition. There’s so much reverence for the world in Wild Things, so much intelligence and beauty on every page. A stunning book.
—Christine Sneed, Little Known Facts and The Virginity of Famous Men
Jaimee Wriston Colbert has written a book of deeply affecting elegies to the scattered remnants of wilderness, the some few wild things we still live among: blackbird, brown trout, reef shark, teenage girl. By turns luminous and razor-sharp, in landscapes as diverse as a shimmering beach in Oahu and a crumbling mill town in upstate New York, these characters find comfort, not only in the “peace of wild things” but also in their scrap and bite, their tenacious urge toward survival in an absurdly hostile world.
—Pam Houston, Contents May Have Shifted and Cowboys Are My Weakness
Colbert, Jaimee Wriston (author). Oct. 2016. 200p. BkMk, paperback, $15.95 (9781943491056).
REVIEW. First published October 15, 2016 (Booklist).
Colbert (Shark Girls, 2009) hones her clarion vision of the interconnectedness and vulnerability of life in this edgy, knowing, situationally complex, and emotionally intricate short story collection. Set in the decimated watershed of the Susquehanna River, and inspiring comparisons to Joyce Carol Oates and Bonnie Jo Campbell, these loosely linked and distinctly disquieting tales portray families shattered by closed factories, lost and dead-end jobs, foreclosed houses, meth addiction, failures to love, and despair. In passages of startling beauty and tenderness, Colbert draws striking correlations between the destruction of nature and human suffering. In “Erosion,” a woman in a faltering marriage, unable to get pregnant and in need of a job, thinks, “I’m the coral reefs dying, the hole in the ozone, pollution, drought, the planet’s bad news.” A nature-loving yet unloved boy becomes a confused man who holds a 15-year-old girl captive to protect her. Other characters are haunted by lost siblings and burdened by thoughts of extinction. Colbert’s divining sense of brokenness and our longing for wholeness make for extraordinarily incisive, stirring, funny, and haunting all-American stories.
—Donna Seaman – Booklist, Advanced Review of Wild Things
PRAISE FOR "SHARK GIRLS":
"As Hawaii becomes a state, sexy housewife Jaycee seethes like a caged predator. She is careless of her children, even pretty little Willa, who nearly dies after losing a leg to a shark. Willa heals physically, but she does not speak or leave her bed for 18 years. When she does emerge, "Shark Girl" is thought to be a mystic and a healer. Her older sister, called Scat, has become a "devastation photographer," specializing in natural disasters. Scat tries to reunite with her sister, but Shark Girl is elusive. No one is whole in award-winning Colbert's novel of terrors hidden and all too obvious. As the story reaches from Hawaii to Maine, all kinds of "shark girls" surface, including Gracie, a gentle 21-year-old with a cruelly scarred face, who picks up Willa's trail. Colbert has created an edgy and lush gothic tale laced with outlaw eroticism and barbed absurdities, and propelled by a powerful undertow racing beneath every alarming scene, bitterly funny moment, and strange twist of fate. From women battered and haunted to "throwaway kids," rock-and-roll burnouts, and quixotic quests, Colbert summons a world as volatile as Hawaii itself, with its cycles of volcanic destruction and slow repair."
—Donna Seaman, BOOKLIST (Starred Review)
"Colbert's Shark Girls is a mesmerizing novel, vibrant with eroticism, myth, and mystery."
—Madison Smartt Bell, author, All Souls' Rising
"This novel is so original and strange that it's hard to put a label on it, yet it has the lively detail and bold characterization and compelling plot that always make a good novel. I was captivated by the bold twists and turns, as well as the sharp and inventive language, and I was drawn in by the fascinating lore and setting of Hawaii."
—Bobbie Ann Mason, author, In Country: A Novel
"Jaimee Wriston Colbert's Shark Girls is as inventive as any novel I have read in a long time, the prose boisterous and perfectly mastered to tell this story about home and leave-taking, and about the quirky and unrelenting desire of the heart to find itself. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignantly, even disturbingly sad, it is, finally, and in every word, tender and original and as compassionate a look at character and place as you're apt to find anywhere. Shark Girls dazzles. A remarkable achievement.
—Jack Driscoll, author, How Like an Angel
PRAISE FOR "DREAM LIVES OF BUTTERFLIES":
"Colbert knows the weight and shape of the human heart."
—Small Press Review
"Jaimee Wriston Colbert's new episodic novel-in-stories is a jewel in both its form and its feeling, with layers of image and meaning as intricately patterned as the dust on a butterfly's wing."
—Madison Smartt Bell
"Evocative images of specimen butterflies, their broken bodies permanently suspended in time and pinned in place, suffuse Colbert's inventively interconnected stories of fragile yet defiant people whose lives immutably sway in a limbo between uncertainty and endurance. From Oahu's jade green hills and Honolulu's faded glamour to the psychological confinement of the Midwest's open spaces, Colbert's vivid array of characters are mired in place and desperate for escape that, once attained, is ephemeral..."
"Jaimee Wriston Colbert's words are like magic. Colbert gives voice to those pushed to the margins of resistance, of sanity, of survival - and what a voice it is! Lyrical, imploring, humorous, and heartbreaking, the stories contained here take us out of dreams and into the reality of lives whose truths are both strange and familiar. It is her brilliant exploration of that no-man's land between what we desire and what we must live without that defines Colbert's deep empathy for her characters. We feel ourselves being drawn into the plight of the characters with such startling recognition that we feel our own lives teetering on the edge of something wondrous."
"Dream Lives of Butterflies is full of startling wisdom and high-flown humor. Jaimee Wriston Colbert's characters are complete originals; full of sass and attitude, they struggle with the cultural tension between worlds and lives. Readers will love following these people on their full-hearted, rambunctious adventures."
PRAISE FOR "CLIMBING THE GOD TREE":
"A debut novel set in a haunted Maine town. Eerie, understated, and deft. Colbert uses atmosphere the way David Lean uses scenery."
"The scope of Jaimee Wriston Colbert's storytelling is impressive, with no fewer than 16 central characters delineated in intricately overlapping narratives... The stories stand on their own as sensitive and unsentimental evocations of unrelieved loss."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Jaimee Wriston Colbert looks deeply into the ragged places in our psyches - into the parts of us torn open by loss and by failed love - and reveals our humanity in all its beauty and imperfection. Here is a writer who, in powerfully linked stories, movingly evokes both our craving for the sacred and our tenacious embrace of the profane."
—Dawn Raffel, Judge, Willa Cather Fiction Prize
"Climbing the God Tree is an intricate cat's cradle of obsession, desire, compassion, and hope. Jaimee Wriston Colbert holds back nothing - in each of these finely interwoven lives, I recognize something of my own. An extraordinary novel."
—A Manette Ansay, author, River Angel