And Both Shall Row: A Novella and Stories

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9780312186821: And Both Shall Row: A Novella and Stories
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A New York Times Notable Book.

And Both Shall Row: A Novella and Stories brings to life the people of Clayborne, a small town where tornado-driven cows and family excursions gain epic stature and matters of the heart are paramount.

And Both Shall Row, the novella that lends its title to this collection, is the poignant story of two sisters growing old together who finally face a lifetime of betrayals in the last moments of one sister's life.

Beth Lordan imbues her characters with dignity and hounds them with doubts, forming tender, subtle stories about loss, regret, and unabated love.

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Review:

In an ordinary writer's hands, the fictional town of Clayborne would be just like a thousand other half-forgotten Midwestern farm communities: dusty and worn, a touch melancholy. In Beth Lordan's luminous first collection, however, Clayborne is invested with more than a little magic. And it's not just in the shape of the ghost who haunts the first story, "The Widow," or the impossible run of luck experienced by the protagonist of "Running Out." Lordan's magic lies not in the supernatural but in the simple, human sympathy that exists between her characters. In "The Cow Story," for example, two isolated people are brought together unexpectedly by a runaway cow and a tornado. Sitting out the storm together at a kitchen table, 50-something librarian Maude Nash and 50-something bachelor farmer Byron Doatze stumble from acquaintanceship to friendship to the possibility of something more in the course of one night. Comes the moment of truth, however, and "they sat there. Maude took her look and Byron took his look. They both saw, because they could still see clearly in spite of the candles and the rain and the dark and the nightclothes and Byron's sock feet, that it would be pretty hard to get from where they were into bed together. They saw that this, after all, was coffee and cookies and a warm dry house in a rainstorm, in spite of the tornado and the cow." But in Lordan's universe a coffee-and-cookies evening can still be transformed into something more--and is, in the beautifully crafted related story, "The Dummy."

Perhaps it is the interrelatedness of these tales that gives them a more novelistic scope than short fiction generally has. Locales such as Frenchie's Superette, the Rainbow bar, and the diner, and minor characters such as Reverend Parsons show up in story after story, providing the threads that tie this collection together. And once Lordan has you all moved into her little fictional community and caught up in the lives of its citizens, she delivers her pièce de résistance, the title novella. In this remarkable tale of two elderly sisters facing mortality, Lordan pulls out all the stops to craft a story that is tough, tender, and a testament to both her skill as a writer and her tremendous understanding of human nature. These are short stories that even people who don't like short stories will love. --Alix Wilber

From the Publisher:

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK

"And Both Shall Row is a moving, subtle, and beautifully written tale about two women whose long lives have been deeply interwoven by passion, jealousy, family love, and almost scandalously shared experience."

--Alison Lurie

"Perhaps my favorite collection this year.... In her plain and delicate stories, Beth Lordan respects happiness as a human destination--a wonderful place to be approaching, a fearful place to be from." --Thomas Mallon, The Washington Post Book World

"A fine, strong collection, written in a voice that's utterly assured and utterly distinctive." --The New York Times Book Review

"Beth Lordan writes about small-town life with authority and grace." --Chicago Tribune

"Lordan is definitely a writer to watch; she eschews flashy effects to build characters whose simple lives take on a dignity and meaning." --Publishers Weekly

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9780312206338: And Both Shall Row: A Novella and Stories

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ISBN 10:  031220633X ISBN 13:  9780312206338
Publisher: Picador, 1999
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