Read Dinosaurs On Other Planets by Danielle McLaughlin Online

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A woman battles bluebottles as she plots an ill-judged encounter with a stranger; a young husband commutes a treacherous route to his job in the city, fearful for the wife and small daughter he has left behind; a mother struggles to understand her nine-year-old son’s obsession with dead birds and the apocalypse. In Danielle McLaughlin’s stories, the world is both beautifulA woman battles bluebottles as she plots an ill-judged encounter with a stranger; a young husband commutes a treacherous route to his job in the city, fearful for the wife and small daughter he has left behind; a mother struggles to understand her nine-year-old son’s obsession with dead birds and the apocalypse. In Danielle McLaughlin’s stories, the world is both beautiful and alien. Men and women negotiate their surroundings as a tourist might navigate a distant country: watchfully, with a mixture of wonder and apprehension. Here are characters living lives in translation, ever at the mercy of distortions and misunderstandings, striving to make sense both of the spaces they inhabit and of the people they share them with....

Title : Dinosaurs On Other Planets
Author :
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ISBN : 9781906539511
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 197 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Dinosaurs On Other Planets Reviews

  • Ioana
    2019-03-09 09:53

    I had the privilege of traveling to Ireland just over a month ago. Alas, when I returned, as these things go, my Netgalley request for Dinosaurs on Other Planets, a beautiful debut short-story collection by a budding Irish author, was approved. Having just spent a few days imbibing the soulful atmosphere of Dublin and the melancholy of the fertile but sparsely inhabited countryside of County Cork, I was especially appreciative of McLaughlin’s portrait of Ireland in transition.The backdrop is a place still struggling from economic depression, and the overwhelming theme explored is human despair/alienation (driven by economic woes/inequality). A father desperately attempts to provide for his bipolar wife and child; a team of brothers engage in smuggling activities; a mink-farmer is ridden by debt. The most unsettling thread coursing through McLaughlin’s stories is her choice of setting: locations far removed from urban centers (long imprinted in human mythos as harbors of despair/inequality/strife).Cliffs of Moher, IrelandAn example (and indulgence): I’ve always day-dreamed about my ideal of a peaceful life: roaming Romanian’s Carpathians as a shepherd- just me, the mountains, and sheep. And of course, in my fantasy, I’m also carrying a backpack full of books.Piatra Craiului, a sub-range of the Carpathians in Transylvania, my soul-homeBut, this daydream is a purely romantic notion, born of a melancholy for simpler times, in which nature symbolizes peacefulness and beauty. Who knows if these times really existed? We tend to see the past through rose-colored glasses, yearning for an ‘Eden’ that lives purely in the imagination and is not supported by historical fact.Piatra Craiului, RomaniaRealistically, if I was a Romanian shepherd, I wouldn’t be carrying around a backpack full of books (I wouldn’t have the means, or the education most likely). I’d be living in poverty, away from human companionship for long stretches at a time. And meanwhile, the world would go on, and I would know very little about it. On second thought, not so ideal, after all. In fact, a privileged self-indulgence: for I’m sure I wouldn’t be having this fantasy if I were still a child in Communist Romania. Ah, the view from my American land-of-plenty perch…McLaughlin brilliantly captures this dilemma of modern times: even in remote places, even in places bountifully given to nature, human despair persists, darkness still encroaches. There is no place where we can go to ‘escape’. Effectively, these stories demolish the notion of a fabled haven, of being able to somehow transcend the confines of our material situations (i.e. economics). Still, McLaughlin does not leave the reader with a complete sense of loss or inescapable existential ennui. For even within the bounds of our lives, her stories relate the ways in which we still have the ability to make meaning for ourselves. There is, at least, no cessation of movement: we are compelled forward, by our desire to understand. And, this desire is fundamentally a productive and positive force that propels action/life.Meanwhile, the choice is ours. Whether we decide to act, to seek out experiences, knowledge, wisdom - life sweeps us along in an ever-moving stream. Whatever happens, wherever we are, rivers don’t stop on our behalf. This sentiment is poignantly alluded to in the final story of the collection, in which a child wonders, could there be dinosaurs on other planets? Since they were wiped out on Earth by an asteroid, what about all those places that have not been hit? Even when a devastating realization, event, or act may wipe out all we hold dear, or may cause us to rethink all of our preconceptions, the world goes on, carrying us even as we may lie limp or try to fight against the current. Sobering, indeed.McLaughlin writes beautifully, her insights are penetrating, and her stories are easily relatable. Still, I wasn’t fully captured by the work. While I fully identified with the melancholic tone (the story of my being), these stories were a bit too... lethargic for my taste. Reading this short book induced some kind of torpor- it took me weeks to read, and then weeks more to write this review. I received my copy from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are solely my own

  • Jen Campbell
    2019-03-19 10:35

    4.5/5 :)

  • Barbara
    2019-03-14 09:37

    This volume consists of 11 short stories, two of which appeared in the New Yorker. One person at my book club noted all the stories featured "bad mothers". Some beautiful prose, but the stories at times were grim. But I appreciated this collection and will definitely read more of her. A book for those interested in new Irish writing, short stories, and writing by women.

  • Jill
    2019-02-26 08:50

    When a publicist compares a debut writer to the inimitable Alice Munro and William Trevor, expectations are bound to be high. I don’t think Danielle McLaughlin quite meets that standard, but I do think that this is a very promising collection of stories that builds momentum as it goes along.Taken as a whole, this quietly powerful story collection each person’s evolving place in an often uncertain, always mysterious universe. The title story is the final story and it includes this description, partially in response to a young boy who believes he has discovered a dinosaur skull : “There were stars, millions of them, the familiar constellations she’d known since childhood. They were white-hot clouds of dust and gas, and the light, if you got close, would blind you.” Animals don’t fare well in Dinosaurs On Other Planets; neither, in many cases, do parent-child relationships or relationships between lovers. A particularly disturbing story, A Different County, focuses on an innocent woman named Sarah who travels with her new boyfriend, Jonathan, to the home of his brother Aidan and his very pregnant girlfriend, Pauline. As labor commences for Pauline, Sarah’s innocence is shattered when she comes across the brothers’ unsettling and secretive activities.Another, In The Act of Falling, centers on a stressed-out wife whose unemployed husband stays home with their antisocial young son. Tension builds as we view the son’s obsession with dead ducks, a traveling preacher who looks like Angelina Jolie, and a depraved man who might be the cause of harm.With psychological acuity, Danielle McLaughlin crafts her stories, which – for the most part – evoke desolution, alienation, and in some cases, redemption. I foresee good things for this talented writer. 4.5 stars.

  • Eric Anderson
    2019-03-11 05:30

    It's not till the last part of this debut short story collection by author Danielle McLaughlin that you reach the title story. If you've read all the stories in order (as I did) then you'll already have a sense of the title's more complex meaning. It’s a phrase taken from a conversation in one story where a child speculates that if dinosaurs were made extinct after a meteor hit Earth there could still be dinosaurs on other planets. However, a more layered understanding of how this image’s meaning connects with human relationships comes from the interactions of the characters throughout all of the stories. They convey a sensation that, even if we are emotionally destroyed in our own circumscribed existence, other lives still carry on independently. There is a feeling running through many of these varied and skilfully-written tales that the existence of others happens at a far remove from you and your own internal reality. Even if we live in close proximity to each other and especially if we're in a relationship with someone, the bulk of these other lives remains distinct and private. McLaughlin subtly handles this by creating deeply immersive and compelling stories which show a keen sense of how people relate to each other.Read my full thoughts on LonesomeReader review of Dinosaurs on Other Planets by Danielle McLaughlin

  • Kasa Cotugno
    2019-03-02 10:51

    I've observed this paradox before -- if a book of short stories is uniformly great, reading it is hard work. To give each story its due, it requires digestion and are thus better read individually, between weightier novels, as a sort of sorbet. But when gathered in a collection, the process of immersion, intrigue, absorption, all requires an ebb and flow of concentration, culminating sometimes in an abrupt closure. So, how to review a collection such as this where every story is compelling. Set in an Ireland that could be anywhere, even anywhere USA, with only sporadic reference to place names or metric measurements to identify this as Ireland. There is so much good writing coming out of there -- I recently attended a panel of Irish writers who agreed that the flavor of contemporary Irish fiction is reflective of that island's long tradition of story telling. If there is a common thread running through these particular stories, it is one that is familiar to anyone who has lived the past decade anywhere in the world in which a financial surge and decline has affected all. I recently read a book of short stories from Greece with similar themes. These are hyper realistic, hypnotic and recognizable situations that present us with a worldview, proving our lives are not that much different from those not next door.

  • Karen Mace
    2019-03-23 04:49

    Have been on the lookout for some short story collections to get into, and I was tempted by this one as the cover and title intrigued me!This is a collection of short stories and not of the happy variety! They are beautifully written and feature a host of different problems faced by families. My problem with this book was that it was more miss than hit for me with how the stories captured my imagination and interest.The best was definitely saved til last, and a couple of the others were captivating too but I found a lot of the others didn't really move me.

  • Aj Sterkel
    2019-03-06 10:26

    This short story collection isn’t quite what I was expecting. It contains no dinosaurs or other planets, but it does contain realistic stories about characters whose lives have gone slightly off-course.These are iceberg stories. You only see brief snippets of the characters’ lives, but you know that a lot is happening under the surface. Most things are left unsaid. The characters bury their feelings and don’t find it easy to express their thoughts. This isn’t a collection that a reader can race through. You have to pause after each story and think about it to really understand its meaning.There’s nothing explicitly sad about the stories, but they all have a heavy, melancholy tone. The characters are on the cusp of major changes in their lives. The reader gets the sense that the characters are holding their breaths, waiting to see which way life shoves them next. There’s an equal chance of things getting dramatically better or dramatically worse.Danielle McLaughlin’s writing is beautiful. These stories are very well-observed. The author definitely understands human behavior and how subtle actions can sometimes say more than words.I love the setting. Most of the stories take place in rural Ireland. I’ve never been to Ireland, but the author makes it easy to get a sense of the landscape and the people.My only complaint about this collection is that some of the stories are too quiet for me. Compared to most short stories, these are quite long. Since they’re long and slow, it sometimes feels like nothing is happening. Still, I like the tone of the collection and the complex characters. I have to be vague about my favorite stories because they’re too easy to spoil. They don’t have tons of action or unexpected plot twists. Here they are:In “The Art of Foot-binding,” a rebellious teenage girl comes home with an unusual school assignment. When the girl’s mother confronts the teacher, she learns that her daughter may know more about her parents’ failing marriage than the mother cares to admit. “Along the Heron-Studded River” takes place in a rural area. A husband commutes to the city for work every day, but he lives in terror that his wife will harm their young daughter while he’s gone.One of my favorite-favorite stories is “Night of the Silver Fox.” A young truck driver develops an interest in the strong-minded daughter of a fur farmer. He’s devastated to learn that she’s resorting to desperate measures to keep her father’s failing farm from going bankrupt.“‘It’s what they’re bred for,’ she said, turning away, ‘they don’t know any different.’” – Dinosaurs on Other Planets“Not Oleanders” is the only story that doesn’t take place in Ireland. After a breakup with her lover, Lily travels to Italy alone. To stave off loneliness, she tracks down a fellow tourist who she met on a train, but the encounter doesn’t go as planned.“Life, after all, was mostly the art of salvage.” – Dinosaurs on Other PlanetsMy other favorite-favorite is the title story, “Dinosaurs on Other Planets.” This one is about dying relationships. A grandmother wants to be involved in the life of her grandson, but she worries that all he’ll remember from his visit to her house is the sheep skull that he found in a field. (And misidentified as a dinosaur skull.) TL;DR: If you like quiet, highly realistic short stories, this is a must-read.

  • Roger Brunyate
    2019-03-24 10:38

    Build Your Own StoryThis is one of the oddest collections of stories I have read in some time. Not odd in the playful or fantastic sense implied by the title, which is just part of the conversation of a man making friends with a young boy. All but one of the eleven stories are set in Ireland, in the countryside of the Dublin suburbs, the characters live more or less normal middle-class lives (though sometimes on the fringes), and their concerns are the usual ones of parenthood, marriage, relationships. No, what makes them odd is that, for all but a very few of them, you have to search for the story. Within a very few lines, McLaughlin will have you involved with some very believable characters in very real situations. She does not tell you everything, but you want to find out all you can. Then suddenly the story ends, without any real climax or denouement, leaving you to wonder, "Now what was that all about?"As an example, consider "Not Oleanders," the only story not set in Ireland. An Irishwoman named Lily travels south on a train through Italy, and gets into conversation with a younger woman, an Austrian graduate student called Etta, who lends her a book. They reach their destination and part. Lily travels further to the mountain guest-house where she will be staying, explains to the proprietor that her companion, Sandra, is sick and will be unable to come. A day or so later, she goes back to the town to return the book to Etta, but after a brief conversation returns to her inn. The story ends with a beautiful but unconnected scene of horses being gathered in for the night, and then abruptly stops. What was it about? On reflection, I think its most important feature is something we hear about only in passing, the relationship between Lily and her missing companion. Who is this Sandra: a friend, a sister, or perhaps a lover? It is pretty clear that the sickness is an excuse, so what happened between them? How does this reflect Lily's relationship with Etta and vice-versa? But the author gives no answers. It is a fascinating exercise in Build Your Own Story.Or again, in the first and probably the most unusual piece, "The Art of Foot Binding," a mother is having the usual trouble with a rebellious teen daughter, and having to face the girl's teacher while the father is pretty much out of the picture. It seems a normal situation, except for the fact that the story is intercut with excerpts from a Chinese manual on foot binding—grotesque instructions on how the parent should break, infect, and essentially destroy the child's feet, heedless of her screams—leaving the reader to work out whether there is not some analogy here, and if the "normal" mother-daughter relationship is normal after all.None of the other stories need to use such a device to set the reader thinking. Most of them use other clues to raise questions. Couples living in isolated or dilapidated houses. Adults with no apparent means of support. People with a troubled past we can only conjecture. Affectless sex. Even though most of the marriages show the couples still together, the relationships are what I would describe as pre-dysfunctional., with one partner was carrying 90% of the load. Generally this is the woman, but there is one story, "Along the Heron-Studded River," which neatly reversed the pattern. Here it is the husband who maintains with difficulty a business job in the town, while his wife and daughter carry on a precarious existence in their isolated house in the country. It becomes clear that the wife is disturbed—though we never learn how extensively or why, any more than we do in the several other stories that feature disturbed or problematic children. The strange combination of functionality and disturbance is possibly the most recurrent feature of McLaughlin's writing.These are not for readers allergic to loose ends—only one of the eleven stories ends with anything like an Event—but I found them enticing rather than off-putting. After three or four similarly enigmatic stories, I was addicted, reading more and more in the hope of finding the one key that would unlock the mystery of all the others. I never did find it, but I did get a very good sense of McLaughlin's method and atmosphere. That was more than enough for the ride, though I am not quite at five stars, because I found myself quickly forgetting the details. But there is no story writer quite like Danielle McLaughlin, and that's saying something.

  • Disha Bose O'Shea
    2019-03-05 11:49

    I nearly always find myself worrying when I speculate over reading a short story collection, whether they are worth investing time over. Not because I don’t like reading short stories, or indeed writing them, but I much prefer reading a short story on off chance. If I happen upon one, or am recommended one etc. However, as always, I don’t know why I worry. I almost always enjoy them; especially when I space the stories out, read them over a week and allow each story to settle in, like dust on the leaves of my aloe vera plant. Danielle McLaughlin is a talented, quiet writer who is able to construct beautifully pieced together words which resonate into meaning, several minutes after the eye reads the sentence. Each story in this collection sticks to the soul. It’s not impossible to describe what the stories are about, but I’d rather allow you to discover them yourself. Some of the unifying themes in the stories, which I will take the liberty to disclose, are dead animals and insects, isolated lonely women and men, the defeats and defects of life. It is startling to think this is her debut work, such is the power of her storytelling. I am definitely a fan and will not hesitate to purchase her next collection. Why you should read it:If you like modern short stories and don’t mind cliffhangers If you don’t mind being struck by a gush of beautiful, sad emotions If, like me, you’re attracted to intriguing story titles Why you shouldn’t read it: If you’re looking for a light and easy read If you prefer stories that end neatly and don’t want the story to end just when your breath is stuck in your throat

  • Gretel
    2019-03-17 11:52

    More like 2.5. This book unfortunately does not feature either dinosaurs or other planets, but it is a well-written collection of literary short stories. These stories are not happy ones. These stories are of families with problems. My favourite is the first story of the bunch The Art of Foot-Binding, following a teenage daughter's strange behaviour that arises from the problems between her parents. All About Alice is another one of my favourites, which follows middle-aged Alice who has the house to herself after her father goes on holiday. I could really feel Alice's regret at doing the thing she did that made her move back in with her father and it's wonderfully claustrophobic and tense, as is the nail-biting Along the Heron-Studded River, which has all the ingredients to be a thriller in its own right. Unfortunately as the book progresses everything becomes very sameish. At least throw in one happy family! In Not Oleanders, the only story not set in Ireland, I initially became excited because of the change of scenery, but it's probably the most dull story of the bunch.

  • Eleanor
    2019-02-27 08:42

    On the back cover of my copy of Dinosaurs On Other Planets, there’s a blurb from Anne Enright, the first Irish fiction laureate. It is to the effect that this collection does not (as debut collections are often said to do) “mark the arrival” of a fresh and exciting new voice; that voice–McLaughlin’s voice–is already here. She’s landed; all this collection is doing is announcing her presence.It certainly doesn’t have any of the wobbles or uncertainties that can mar debut story collections. I’m not a short story kind of girl; things I can’t sink my teeth into tend to bore me, and I cavalierly dismiss stories as being in this category. McLaughlin’s stories are different. They’re sort of like contemporary Flannery O’Connor if you stripped out the religion and replaced it with something very difficult to identify: maybe the clarity of despair, maybe just the lifelong act of putting one foot in front of the other.Read the rest of the review here: https://ellethinks.wordpress.com/2016...

  • Michelle
    2019-03-25 03:27

    Dinosaurs on Other Planets is a 11 story collection of literary, slice-of-life fiction. It has something of the wistful melancholy which I associate with Sherwood Anderson. At times it takes a turn for the dark and disturbing. In particular I enjoyed "Those That I Fight I Do Not Hate" and "The Art of Foot-Binding."I received a complimentary copy of this book via a Goodreads giveaway. Many thanks to all involved in providing me with this opportunity.

  • Em
    2019-02-24 04:28

    Podprahové a znepokojujúce.

  • Abby Johnson
    2019-03-14 10:43

    The short stories in this book explore relationships between husbands and wives, parents and children, and adults and their parents. They are well-crafted, bringing characters to life in a couple dozen pages and with striking moments that will stick with the reader. My favorites crackle with dark emotions as characters must make difficult decisions and face difficult consequences. I would suggest this collection to fans of character-driven literary fiction.

  • Mike Finn
    2019-03-12 08:27

    Danielle McLaughlin's debut short story collection, "Dinosaurs On Other Planets" is emotionally powerful, deeply insightful and written with a deft touch that is compelling without being intrusive.It's taken me a little over two months to read the eleven stories in this collection because each one demands a period of reflection before moving on to the next. Each has its own flavour that I found I wanted to savour by itself for a while.This is one of those rare collections where all the stories a strong, so I've reviewed them all in the order that they appear on the table of contents, rather than trying to pick favourites.The Art Of FootbindingThis is a quietly disturbing story that leaves the reader to arrive at an understanding of the meaning of the story or. perhaps, just to see clearly the people in the story.We are presented with a woman trying to hold on to a husband she is fearful of losing and struggling to assert authority over an increasingly contemptuous and unhappy teenage daughter. Descriptions of the art of footbinding, that read as if they are from a very old Chinese handbook for footbinders, are placed between the unfolding events. That the daughter then starts to bind her own feet, allegedly as part of a homework assignment, links the two streams of text.I like the words that are left unsaid and the relationships and meanings that are left implicit in this story. The effect is to make the story more truthful and more compelling.I was left to consider what I thought about the things women are willing to do or are made to or push their daughters into doing in order not to be abandoned.I wasn't told what to think. I was invited to consider. I liked that. It's something a short story is uniquely positioned to do.Those That I Fight I Do Not HateI've been told that, if you break a hologram into pieces, each shard will contain the entire image. "Those That I Fight I Do Not Hate" seems to me to be a hologram shard. It's not really a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. It's an immersion into the experience of a man at a public event in a small town where everyone knows what he's done and who he is and holds him in contempt for it. We don't need to be told what the thing is or was because everyone knows it and accepts it.In a few short pages, watching the world from inside the head of this untrusted, hard-drinking, adulterous man, I felt I knew not just him, but the people around him and social gravity that keeps them orbiting around one another. The main character IS the narrative. The story is about being not doing.All About AliceAlice has a past but what she wants is a future, she just isn't sure how to get there from here.The story opens with a wonderful image that captures Alice's mood and her situation, living in her father's house, dragged down by the weight of her past and unable to reach the future she can see but can't touch: "August was heavy with dying blubottles. They gathered in velvety-blue droves on the window panes and beat their gauzy wings against the glass. They squatted black and languid along the sills."As we follow Alice through a week free from her father's presence we find that Alice "wanted to leave her life like a balloon leaves a fairground. To slip from life’s sweaty hand and float away."yet her past life sticks to her not because she holds on to it but because everyone in the village keeps it fixed in place. At one point, Alice meets her friend, Marian and we find that "Marian, like everybody else in this town, really did know all about Alice."Eventually, Alice comes to the realization that "there was no bolt to slide across her past. The past was an open door and the best that could be done was to hurry by on the corridor."and that, at forty-five, it may already be too late for her to do more than beat her wings against the glass.Along the Heron-studded RiverThis is a delicate tale, indirectly told but clearly drawn, about living with someone loved but broken. When I first listened to the husband, from whose point of view the tale is told, and I attributed to him many motives and actions and secrets that explained his behaviour and his wife's. I was wrong about all of them. Only when the simple truth of his situation became clear did I finally see the man himself, the hurt he had suffered and the love he continues to offer.I understood then that he sees life as herron-studded river that we must swim in to be free, even though that makes us vulnerable to the sharp bills of the herrons looming over us.Night of the Silver FoxThis story reminded me strongly of the quiet desperation of H.E. Bates' stories. Like the caged silver foxes of the story, all the characters are trapped so that I felt invited to believer "It’s what they’re bred for,’ she said, turning away, ‘they don’t know any different."The story is soaked in a solution of defeat, duplicity and sexual tension that sucks at the characters, dragging them towards another round of bad choices.The story is told from the point of view of a young man in his first job after school, still trying to get a grip on his place in the world. My attention (and his of course) was captured by the smart, determined young woman trapped on her father's dying farm, doing what she thinks needs to be done to survive.Not OleandersThis is the story of Lily, a woman in her forties who has displaced herself so that she is not at the centre of her own life. She is living with a loss of meaning, carried along a path she didn’t choose, by a relationship she no longer inhabits. It captures perfectly the gentle confusion and embarrassment that comes from knowing oneself well without gaining power or purpose from the knowledge.Our heroine, alone on a holiday in Italy that was meant to be with her long-term but now lost, lover, Sandra, impulsively tracks Etta, a chance-met young woman to a nearby town, thinking there is a connection between them.. It is instantly clear to her that she has misjudged. How might she explain this misjudgement, even to herself? "Hope, she might have said, if she’d tried; the eternal triumph of hope over experience. That and the fact that, if she were honest, there was something about this young woman that reminded her of Sandra; she’d noticed it the minute Etta had settled into the seat opposite her on the train; not a recent Sandra, an earlier version."For a moment she tries to save something from the encounter because "Life, after all, was mostly the art of salvage. But Etta, her expression shifting in sudden recognition, was too young yet, too undamaged, to have learned this."Lily, humiliated, retreats and tries "to make the best of this place that Sandra had landed her in,"Lily understands that humiliation is not so easily dismissed. She says: "It would return, of course, as humiliations always did, it would wait for her in the long grass of memory.In the final scene, when a small herd of horses that Lily had thought were focused on her, start to run towards a man behind her, who has come to feed them and who was the real object of their attention, Lily's response encapsulates her character and her relationship to life: "And as they went by, she stepped back into the trees, to shelter from the clouds of yellow dust flung up by the chaos of their hooves."SilhouetteThis is a story of mothers and daughters: how they see each other, how they hurt each other and the love they can offer each other.Aileen, in her forties, unmarried, living in England, recently made pregnant by a married colleague, returns to Cork to give her dying mother her news. Things turn out to be more complicated than that.This story shows how hard it is to say what needs to be said to those we love. How even new life and near death can't free our tongues.My favourite line describes Aileen, sitting with her frail mother, trying and failing to find a way to speak of her pregnant state and recognising both the connection between her and her mother and the deep crevasse it spans. "They sat in silence for a while. At the end of the day, Aileen thought, this was all she and her mother could offer one another, the comfort of being frightened together."A Different CountryThis tale has the feeling of a nightmare to it, that sense of slowly sliding towards something that appals you but being unable to stop yourself.We all know that the past is a foreign country but the past that those whom we can move beyond feeling foreign and distance and become something fundamental and immediate. Sarah, travelling from Dublin to the small fishing village her partner grew up in, discovers not just that Ireland has more divisions than between north and south but that she may not really know her partner at all.There is no melodrama here, simply the shock that comes from discovering that values, so deeply held that they seemed not to need discussion, are not shared.Here is the moment when Sarah realises this. "All of the years he had lived in this place before he met her, all of the time they had been strangers to each other, unaware of the other’s existence, settled upon Sarah, heavy and impenetrable. She felt a small, quiet panic rise up. It was the panic of a swimmer who has drifted out, little by little, on a rogue current and who suddenly discovers herself to be far from shore. She had a sense of something slipping away from her; it was something she could not quite identify, but she could feel its ebbing none the less."The Smell of Dead FlowersThis story of a young woman taking up lodging with her mother's oldest friend is both gritty and grimy. It feels like one of those 1960's "it's grim up North" English films that were shot in black and white and filled with noisy silences.All of the characters seem flawed or trapped or both. The tragedy at the heart of the story feels corrupted or at least subverted by the sullied motives and emotions of the people watching it happen.It is beautifully told, with sparse prose and muted emotions that nevertheless bring you back to a sharp clear image of a moment of playfulness that has many layers of meaning.In the Act of FallingThis story is exactly what the title suggests. It catches a woman in that weightless moment when her present is slowly crumbling and she can do nothing to control the speed or direction of her fall.The woman's dwindling sense of agency is beautifully described: a gradual crippling of the will brought on by a slow but irreversible extinction of hope. We never learn her name. She never uses it and no one calls her by it. It's as if she is already becoming the ghost of her former self.The tug of gravity is present in many elements of the story: the house that that gone from dream opportunity to economic burden, the husband who no longer earns and seems to have lost traction on the world,, the strange son with obsessed with death and the End of Times. No one thing pushes the woman yet her fall has started and she has nothing to hang on to.Dinosaurs On Other PlanetsThis is a tale filled with the sadness of decaying relationships and frustrated hopes. Kate, a woman in her fifties, finds herself at a point in her life where those she loves are moving away from here, pulled along paths that diverge from hers and which will leave here isolated and alone. Her husband, older than her by more than a than a decade, is withdrawing into himself. Her son lives in Japan, her daughter lives in London. Her grandson is almost a stranger to her.The story is set in a weekend that brings daughter and grandson and an unexpected guest into Kate's house for a weekend. The proximity is made almost painful, despite the moments of connection, because it is clear that it is fleeting.In only a few pages we get to know Kate, her now, her remembered past, and her imagined and already feared future and yet there remains always the possibility of change, of something not being what she expects it to be. Even so, there is only so much solace to be taken from the notion that there may still be dinosaurs on other planets.

  • Carla
    2019-03-04 04:47

    Beautifully written. Debut work by Irish author Danielle McLaughlin. They are stories of ordinary Irish people and their lives. If this is her "premiere" work, than this will be an author that I will forever enjoy. Each story is individual, and I WILL re-read this book again.

  • Bonnie Brody
    2019-03-09 10:25

    These stories are about 'ordinary' Irish people, all living their lives as usual. The author appears to catch a part of their lives and view it with drama and intensity. What the reader is privy to are emotions that all of us have probably experienced - pain, happiness, hope, striving, etc. What makes these stories unusual is that they end without resolution, without a sense of finality. Just as life continues on after some intense event, the reader is left feeling that the characters' stories will go on, that there has been no final resolution at the end of each story.In 'The Art of Foot Binding', a pre-adolescent daughter begins binding her feet as Chinese women once did. Her mother becomes concerned and visits her daughter's teacher who she believes has assigned the foot binding as homework. The visit with the teacher forces the mother to face secrets in her home that she has been trying to ignore. She experiences great pain and ends up taking it out on her daughter. What I especially loved about this story is that, interspersed with the story's narrative, are notes from an ancient text about foot binding.These stories are beautifully written and are like soft hammers, exploring the havoc and angst in lives. What Ms. McLaughlin knows is that lives go on after catastrophes, secrets are kept for good reason, often thoughts are left unsaid and, while life may appear chaotic, it will return to the level of functioning that best makes it spin on its axis.W

  • Nancy
    2019-03-06 09:33

    This is an excellently written anthology of short stories. Each story is sharp, insightful, and carefully crafted. That does not mean, however, that they are joyous or easy to read. You really need to slowly absorb each story, ponder its implications, consider the theme and symbols in order to understand the meaning behind the story. I really do love this kind of short story Literature (with a capital L), but I find myself reading them waaaaaayyyyyyyy too slowly. At least according to the County Library's standard of 3 weeks as an appropriate time to read a book...The last couple of stories I read were about marriages and relationships falling apart, and combine that with reading Family Life at the same time (which is a tragically sad story), I just couldn't keep trying with this one any longer. I really do hope to come back to this in a few months and finish the book. It is great writing and deserves to be read completely.

  • Pickle Farmer
    2019-03-15 08:49

    Lots of dead animals and killer endings. The dead animals include seals (shot), bluebottle flies (smashed) and ducks (unknown), among others. Some endings are quiet, some are brutal, only one is clearly happy. There's also plenty of extra marital affairs (both attempted and carried out) and strange creepy children. My favorite stories were "The Smell of Dead Flowers" (that ending!) and "Dinosaurs on Other Planets" (that skull in the bucket full of bleach!). "The Art of Foot Binding" was good too (it made me not want to have kids). All in all, yet another solid collection of contemporary short fiction from Ireland (what the heck are they putting in the water over there?! It's like there's one brilliant writer after another comin' out with a jealousy-inducing book of short fiction!).

  • Debbie V
    2019-03-03 11:29

    This was my first ever short story collection and whilst I enjoyed the writing style by Danielle McLaughlin I don't think they are for me. They left me feeling disappointed and every time a story came to an end I was left wanting so much more from it and wanting to know more about what had happened to the characters I had met so very briefly. Although the stories are well written and mainly about dysfunctional family life they were extremely imaginative but also equally disturbing. I would definitely like to read/see a full length novel by her to see her develop her style further.

  • Niamh Griffin
    2019-03-14 05:46

    A diverse collection of stories, by an intriguing author. All stories have a strong sense of place, melancholy, interesting characters and strong emotions. Some of these stories have featured in the likes of The New Yorker and The Stinging Fly. A collection to be read slowly and each word savoured.

  • Lauren
    2019-03-16 08:39

    I thought these were ok - they didn't add much to the genre of quiet domestic tales of mothers and children, husbands and wives and oddly, I never really got a sense of place. I did like the title story - very accomplished.

  • T P Kennedy
    2019-03-17 05:41

    I enjoyed this but it's so sad. These are beautifully told stories but each one is a study of frustration and disappointment. She's a talented author and a master of the short study. There's something very Irish about her focus on life's defeats. Still a compelling collection.

  • Russell
    2019-02-26 07:49

    I don't know what to say about this book. Some of the stories were amazing - some were just "incomplete". I think I expected something different.

  • Sarah
    2019-03-07 07:45

    I have been stalled midway through for weeks. I just don't think this one is doing it for me.

  • Varsha Ravi
    2019-02-23 11:36

    3.5/5 :)When a collection is uniformly beautiful, reading it in one go is challenging. To give each story it's due credit, digest it's beauty, I'd recommend reading the stories individually, in between other novels as little treat. McLaughlin is an Irish author and all the stories in this collection are set in and around Ireland and other parts of Europe.Her stories initially tug at you, and then you run along, completely immersed into the story, and then suddenly that string breaks culminating in an abrupt closure, like you've suddenly woken from a dream. Each story in this collection sticks and it's important to pause and savour that. I felt I read through it a little too quickly and they may have slightly inhibited my reading experience. These stories are wonderfully written, very quiet and yet are like soft hammers, exploring the havoc, angst and disappointments in our lives, that life go on after mishaps, that secrets are kept for a good reason, and that chaos is the constant in human existence.

  • Ray
    2019-03-14 11:33

    A very good collection though perhaps not one I expect to re-read, but we'll see. The title story, which first appeared in The New Yorker, is one of the best and has an amazing close. But my favorites were actually "The Art Of Foot-Binding", "All About Alice", and "Night of the Silver Fox", followed by "Those That I Fight I Do Not Hate" and "A Different Country". Danielle is a fine writer. But on occasion, an unnecessary bit of description would get in the way. For example, don't stop the story, however briefly, to tell me there's a "blue-checked" tablecloth and a potted plant with "dark-green variegated leaves on a lace doily" on the table where the character is sitting unless 1) the kind of plant is revealing of character, such as--not to be glib--a Venus fly-trap, say, or cannabis, or whatever fits the character. Or 2) To paraphrase Chekhov's rule re guns on the fireplace mantle, if you're going to show me a plant in act one, you'd better have the character bash someone over the head with it in act two. Or at least, if you mention all this, it's because the character's about to yank on said blue-checked tablecloth, sending said dark-green potted plant crashing to the floor, or ... something. If not, don't be surprised if your editor snips it out. Okay. Various interruptions of this sort were my only quibble with style--a minor one, and it didn't happen often. 4 stars, maybe 4.5. I'll definitely read future works by Danielle McLaughlin, a fine writer. Also, she's gorgeous. Merely to look at her photo I consider a fine use of my time.

  • Krissy
    2019-02-22 10:27

    In general, I'm not a reader of short stories. I prefer to spend time with characters and situations in book form, where I get to know them and their lives. However, I entered the Goodreads giveaway for this book and won!Author Danielle McLaughlin has a way with words. A wonderful way of writing that is concise yet striking. A sentence that I found particularly interesting, from the story "Smell of Dead Flowers": "In the wardrobe I found a plastic bag full of men's ties, paisley patterned with the knots hardened into them." So simple, but so descriptive, and evocative for me of a time passed, the ties' owner long gone. I absolutely intend to keep my eye on Ms. McLaughlin, and hope that she will write a full-length novel soon. Thank you again to Random House for the advance copy!

  • Jessica Journey
    2019-02-24 07:38

    Incredibly evocative, fairly bursting with blustery beauty. McLaughlin illustrates her stories with dark images-dead flies, a sheep skull, insect dust, a mink farm, and bound feet-but her writing is less chilling than matter-of-fact. Human.