“All I Ask is a compelling novel and an impressive accomplishment for one of our most promising writers.” — Megan Gail Coles, author of Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club
Like Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends and Eileen Myles’s Chelsea Girls, All I Ask by the award-winning and highly acclaimed author Eva Crocker is a defining novel of a generation.
A little before seven in the morning, Stacey wakes to the police pounding on her door. They search her home and seize her computer and her phone, telling her they’re looking for “illegal digital material.” Left to unravel what’s happened, Stacey must find a way to take back the privacy and freedom she feels she has lost.
Luckily, she has her friends. Smart and tough and almost terrifyingly open, Stacey and her circle are uncommonly free of biases and boundaries, but this incident reveals how they are still susceptible to society’s traps. Navigating her way through friendship, love, and sex, Stacey strives to restore her self-confidence and to actualize the most authentic way to live her life — one that acknowledges both her power and her vulnerability, her joy and her fear.
All I Ask is a bold and bracing exploration of what it’s like to be young in a time when everything and nothing seems possible. With a playwright’s ear for dialogue and a wry, delicate confidence, Eva Crocker writes with a compassionate but unsentimental eye on human nature that perfectly captures the pitfalls of relying on the people you love.
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It took me the whole summer to read How to Pronounce Knife because I was savoring the stories, I wanted to let each one resonate a while before moving on to the next one. The worlds Souvankham Thammavongsa conjures feel so real, she writes about work and parent-child relationships with honesty and compassion.
I’m reading the collection a second time right now and thinking about craft because these feel perfect short stories to me. I’m trying to understand how pacing and tension and endings work in each one and learn from it.
I was so happy when I read the backflap yesterday and saw that Thammavongsa has a novel on the way, I can’t wait to read more of her work.
Longlisted for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize
A young man painting nails at the local salon. A woman plucking feathers at a chicken processing plant. A father who packs furniture to move into homes he’ll never afford. A housewife learning English from daytime soap operas. In her stunning debut book of fiction, O. Henry Award winner Souvankham Thammavongsa focuses on characters struggling to make a living, illuminating their hopes, disappointments, love affairs, acts of defiance, and above all their pursuit of a place to belong. In spare, intimate prose charged with emotional power and a sly wit, she paints an indelible portrait of watchful children, wounded men, and restless women caught between cultures, languages, and values. As one of Thammavongsa’s characters says, “All we wanted was to live.” And in these stories, they do—brightly, ferociously, unforgettably.
A daughter becomes an unwilling accomplice in her mother’s growing infatuation with country singer Randy Travis. A boxer finds an unexpected chance at redemption while working at his sister’s nail salon. An older woman finds her assumptions about the limits of love unravelling when she begins a relationship with her much younger neighbour. A school bus driver must grapple with how much he’s willing to give up in order to belong. And in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize-shortlisted title story, a young girl’s unconditional love for her father transcends language.
Unsentimental yet tender, and fiercely alive, How to Pronounce Knife announces Souvankham Thammavongsa as one of the most striking voices of her generation.
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