Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

Fortune_Smiles_jacketIn Palo Atlo, a man deals with the fact that his wife is paralyzed from the waist down due to a rare condition called Guillian-Barre syndrome. She listens to Nirvana day in and day out and he talks to his digital version of the recently assassinated president as they navigate the sorrow and grief that comes along with her condition.

In Lake Charles, Indiana, a UPS driver goes about his normal deliveries carrying along his two and half year old son who was left in his van after hurricane Katrina and hurricane Rita left the city in ruins. They work, eat, and sleep in the UPS van as Nonc tries to find Geranimo’s mother and discover what their lives will look like post-hurricane.

In current day Berlin, the prior warden of a Stasi prison thinks about his past: Still living in the staff homes close to the prison that now acts as a tourist location, Hans ponders the conditions of the prison and whether he and his staff were as bad as all the now-released inmates claim they were.

These short stories (along with three others) will have you thinking about life and all its players in a completely different light.

My Thoughts: 

I am a firm believer that a writer whose work helps you to see life from a completely different perspective is a fine writer indeed. This collection of short stories from Adam Johnson is truly remarkable. His characters are often on the fringes of society, but Johnson writes in such a way that I kept thinking about how I most often judge before considering why a person might be the way they are and do the things they do. This book was chosen to be the 2015 National Book Award winner and Johnson’s previous novel, The Orphan Master’s Son, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 (just added to my reading list). I am looking forward to reading more of his work and hoping that they are as great as this beautiful collection of short stories.


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