Adam Johnson has followed up his unforgettable novel, The Orphan Master’s Son, with an impressive and equally indelible collection of stories, Fortune Smiles. The six tales in this volume will stay with me for a long time. In particular, three of them feel permanently seared in my mind. In “Hurricanes Anonymous” a father, who is trying to set his life on the right track, finds himself in search of the mother of his infant son in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Johnson’s voice for the story rivals the innovative tone that is so distinctive in the work of Junot Diaz. In “George Orwell Was a Friend of Mine” a former prison warden in East Germany refuses to believe his past played any role in the horrors of those imprisoned. And in “Dark Meadow” a man struggling with his innermost vices tries to steer his life in a new direction. Each of these remarkable stories shows Johnson’s ability to examine wayward individuals and yet offer an angle of compassion for their troubled lives. Few writers are as bold and daring as Johnson in exploring the conscience of lost souls living on the fringe of society. Nonetheless, he is able to locate the humanity buried somewhere in their core. Even while tackling subjects of personal struggle and suffering, he also finds a way to thread a stream of humor throughout. Ultimately, he offers hope for even the most broken and downtrodden of lives. Fortune Smiles is as brilliant in its range of characters as any story collection I’ve ever read.

RogerDeBlanck's rating:
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