The stories collected here offer an entrancing, intriguing
look at some of the various miracles of everyday life, the
quirks of chance and coincidence, life's setbacks and improvisations.
Carol Shields deftly draws us into the lives of a broad
range of sharply observed characters, from the brilliant
young violinist smothered by an overprotective family, to
the elderly widow mowing her lawn while a long, passionate
life buzzes around in her memory. These twenty-one miracles
of the storyteller's art collection present Shields, blending
wit and compassion, at her inimitable best.
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here to order.
Carol Shields is a brilliant writer.
The stories mirror our lives in all the closest and
most intimate ways and at the same time are entertaining
- quite wickedly entertaining."
'BONJOUR,' SHE SANG
It's been mainly a happy marriage. .
. . To her surprise, to everyone's surprise, she turned
out to have an aptitude for monogamy. Nevertheless,
many of the scenes that have come into her life have
involved men. Once she was walking down a very ordinary
French street on a hot day. A man, bare-chested, drinking
Perrier at a cafe table, sang out, ''Bonjour.'' Not
''bonjour, Madame'' or ''bonjour, Mademoiselle,'' just
''Bonjour.'' Cheeky. . . . ''Bonjour,'' she sang back
and gave a sassy little kick, which became the start
of a kind of dance. The man at the table clapped his
hands over his head to keep time as she went dancing
Once she went to the British Museum
to finish a piece of research. There was a bomb alert
just as she entered, and everyone's shopping bags and
briefcases were confiscated and searched. It happened
that Frances had just bought a teddy bear for the child
of a friend. . . . The guard . . . carried it away to
be X-rayed. Later he brought it to Frances. . . . As
he handed her the bear, he kissed the air above its
fuzzy head, and Frances felt her mouth go into the shape
of a kiss, too. . . . There are people who think such
scenes are ornaments suspended from lives that are otherwise
busy and useful. Frances knows perfectly well that they
are what a life is made of, one fitting against the
next like English paving-stones.
- From ''Various Miracles.''
These are stories to learn from
- about the amazing power of language to recreate
life on the page, and about life itself. Carol Shields
is a marvelous writer - perceptive, witty, ironic
and tender - whose poetic and analytical gifts make
Various Miracles a dazzling collection."
With deft, luminous prose, Carol
Shields creates a tangential world of real charm
and mystery. The satisfying economy of these stories,
the tender precision, unveil a unique enchanting
Twenty-one short stories, prose
poems, and contemporary fables by Canadian Shields (Small
Ceremonies, 1976) that elliptically, and successfully,
suggest how mysterious ordinary life can be. Shields frequently
takes the slightest of plots and digresses delicately
until reaching a conclusion that, as often as not, is
a poetic image rather than a resolution. The title story
whimsically lists odd but ordinary miracles--four strangers
on the same bus reading the same paperback (Smiley's People),
for example--and then by poetic association makes its
way to a Cuban-born novelist and becomes lightly metafictional.
Likewise, "Mrs. Turner Cutting the Grass" moves from Mrs.
Turner on her lawn to a poet who spies her vacationing
loudly in Japan: he writes a very successful poem that
is contemptuous of her, and the contrast between the poet's
career and Mrs. Turner's unexceptional decency makes for
an exquisite little dissertation--thoughtful, quiet, full
of literary turns. The last story, "Others," is the book's
best (and longest): Robert and Lila, on vacation, lend
50 pounds to Nigel in England, and forever after receive
grateful Christmas cards (no return address) from him
and his wife Jane. Robert and Lila contrast their ordinary
lives--boredom, separation--at every turn with the lives
imagined from the annual Christmas messages: the story
is as powerful in its way as John Cheever's "The Enormous
Radio." The rest here is charming but a little uneven,
occasionally sketchy or too clever; even so, the pieces
are almost always moving, full of poetic leaps and moments
of happiness or faith, whether detailing instances from
a woman's life or writing about the magic of dolls. A
marvelous collection: little sound or fury, but lots of
significance. - Kirkus Reviews
Carol Shields is a wonderful writer
- wry, witty, wise and fiercely intelligent. Many
of the stories in this collection are deliciously
funny; all are memorable."
Carol Shields has a rare and engaging
way of following through an image till she's made
a story of it. In my favorite of her stories, Dolls,
Dolls, Dolls, Dolls, the fiction forms by layers
into a final effect of remarkable poignancy and unsentimental
- Joan Silber
Accidents at the heart of
life: Various Miracles
Jenny Uglow, The Independant
Canadian writer Carol Shields is
best known here for her novel, The Stone Diaries, but
this collection of stories shows her working equally well
in miniature. For Shields, the isle is full of voices
- a murmurous babble of half-forgotten memories, whispers,
anecdotes, conversations half-heard or misunderstood.
Truths are grasped in flickering glimpses beyond words,
like patterns on the inner eye-lid before sleep. We come
to feel like Hazel, in the opening story, who sees that
her 'whole life is an accident, and by accident she has
blundered into the heart of it'.
One story is, in fact, called 'Accidents',
another 'Collision'. In the latter, set in a small state
poised between Communist past and capitalist future, a
man and woman leave a hotel. Both are purveyors of dreams:
she a former film-star making a documentary on her country's
glass industry for foreign investors; he a Canadian architect,
designing a seaside resort. Both carry the baggage of
self - lovers, ambitions, torn-up letters, painful remarks
- but since neither can speak the other's language this
all goes unsaid; they simply share an umbrella, smile,
and part. Chance, and rain, make them touch.
In her hands we believe anything