This Is Salvaged: Book summary and reviews of This Is Salvaged by Vauhini Vara

This Is Salvaged


by Vauhini Vara

This Is Salvaged by Vauhini Vara X
This Is Salvaged by Vauhini Vara
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  • Publishes
    Sep 26, 2023
    208 pages
    Genre: Short Stories

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Book Summary

Stories of uncanny originality from a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction

Pushing intimacy to its limits in prose of unearthly beauty, Vauhini Vara explores the nature of being a child, parent, friend, sibling, neighbor, or lover, and the relationships between self and others. A young girl reads the encyclopedia to her elderly neighbor, who is descending into dementia. A pair of teenagers seek intimacy as phone-sex operators. A competitive sibling tries to rise above the drunken mess of her own life to become a loving aunt. One sister consumes the ashes of another. And, in the title story, an experimental artist takes on his most ambitious project yet: constructing a life-size ark according to the Bible's specifications.

In a world defined by estrangement, where is communion to be found? The characters in This Is Salvaged, unmoored in turbulence, are searching fervently for meaning, through one another.

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Media Reviews

"Vara invigorates with emotional insights, whimsy, and a precision with language. It's a remarkable achievement." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A poignant collection of stories that glimpse the salvation of human connection in the midst of modern alienation." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"In these tales, Vara has captured the fantasies, griefs and longings of life. From keen-eyed girlhood to delusional middle-age, the characters reach for more than is possible, falter, then reach for more. This Is Salvaged is a book for readers who need clarity and hope―that is to say: everybody. Read it!" ―Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-Winning author of Less is Lost

"It takes tremendous courage and wit to look with wonder at the darkest, most shameful places in the human heart and make them hilarious, tender, and deeply moving; Vauhini Vara, with her grand-scale compassion and moral complexity in This is Salvaged, can do this magic with astonishing ease. I've been a fan since I read the story "I, Buffalo" years ago, and am so glad to (finally!) have a collection of Vara's stories in hand to admire and love." ―Lauren Groff, author of Matrix

"I finished This is Salvaged and immediately wanted to re-read it. What a ride. Vauhini Vara's writing is immersive, yielding stories that are clever and surprising, heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny. A brilliant, deeply satisfying collection." ―Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

"The stories in Vauhini Vara's This Is Salvaged are brilliant, entirely human, abidingly strange. She is one of our most inventive writers of fiction, as well as visionary, with a gift for writing about grief both extraordinary and ordinary. This Is Salvaged is unforgettable." ―Elizabeth McCracken, author of The Souvenir Museum

"These dazzling stories take a kaleidoscopic and ferociously tender look at loss and what people hold onto or discover in the wake of it. This is Salvaged is frank enough to introduce its characters at their strangest and most vulnerable but is as interested in the aftermath of a breaking point as the break itself, excavating from grief a fragile and honest sense of hope. Vara has written a wholly original, insightful, and powerful collection." ―Danielle Evans, author of The Office of Historical Corrections

"A haunting, moving, and wise story collection that leads us to and through the blood-slippery true nature of mourning, commitment, sisterhood, mothering, love, and death, amidst all the strangeness and lostness of the world." ―Sarah Thankam Mathews, author of All This Could Be Different

"Vauhini Vara's stunning and imaginative debut novel, The Immortal King Rao, made quite a splash this year. It garnered rave reviews! It was a finalist for the Center for Fiction's prestigious First Novel Prize! How exciting for us, then, that her short story collection is coming out in 2023. She's a writer who packs a punch, and personally, I'm excited to see what magic she can conjure in the condensed form. Although we don't know much about yet, one thing is certain: it's something to look forward to." ―Katie Yee, Literary Hub Most Anticipated Books of 2023

"Vara's The Immortal King Rao, a show-stopping novel about a Dalit immigrant who becomes extremely powerful, and about his child, was one of my favorite books that published in 2022, and this story collection promises to be at least as good. I first read a story from this collection, "I, Buffalo," a decade ago in Tin House. It's a heartbreaking, somehow very funny story about alcoholism, buffalos, and metamorphosis, one I must have reread a dozen times." ―R.O. Kwon, Electric Literature

This information about This Is Salvaged was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Cindy R

Intense memorable short stories
THIS IS SALVAGED (WWNorton) is pulitzer prize winning author, Vauhini Vara's collection of short stories. Each is an intense look at grief and trying to find hope in the darkest hours. Several times, Vara's stories felt like a punch to the stomach. These are her's honest and accurate observations of human nature. There were times I wanted to shut the book, and I think you will too, but stick with it. THIS IS SALVAGED is a collection of stories you soon won't forget.

Judith M. (Granville, OH)

This Is Salvaged by Vauhini Vara is a collection of 10 short stories about the individual search for meaning and connection with other people. Ranging from a story of two teens phone solicitors, of a failed sister who is trying to be a loving aunt, of the remnants of a burned ark that are salvaged, of a step-mother trying to forge a relationship, of the unknowns, of hormonal women, of the sisters of a dying child, of a daughter's search for a relationship with an unknown father, to a story of dying. Each is a look into the inner thoughts of those having the experience. This would be an excellent book club choice because the layers and depths that could be explored.

Julie Z. (Oak Park, IL)

This Is Salvaged
As I have aged, I find myself more drawn to short stories, with Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri being the standard-bearers. In this collection, Vauhini Vara proves herself to be a welcome addition to the genre. The ability to look at the darkness found in so many lives and be able to temper it with a keen sense of humor is what stood out to me in these inventive tales. In the title story, Marlon, an artist working in found objects, says of his wife "Irina had married him because she found him charming at first, and he had married her because he loved people precisely to the extent to which they found him charming". Ultimately, people are the found objects in Marlon's life -easily come upon and then replaced.

Helia R. (Goodlettsville, TN)

A heartbreaking and hilarious collection
I savored every single one of the ten amazing stories that make up this slim collection -- limiting myself to one story a day -- and still, it was over too fast. I felt slightly bereft when finished. What connects these stories that explore common enough tropes such as coming-of-age, addiction, the transient nature of art, loneliness, and grief, is their heart and utter originality. Vara's voice is so perceptive that it's easy to immerse yourself in the various lives of her characters to the point where you feel their anguish and shame, joy, and confusion as your own and come up with your cheeks burning. Given the stunning writing at every level, I rate this one a perfect FIVE.

Becky S. (Springfield, MO)

This is Human
Wow, I had not read Vauhini Vara before, but after reading this collection of short stories, I am definitely going to go back and read her first book , The Immortal King Rao. In This is Salvaged, we read 10 stories, all completely different, but with the common thread of human ness. Each main character has something deep inside of them that makes them feel different and vulnerable. Each story left me wanting to know more, but also with many emotions to think about . Some of the stories were short, and some were longer, but they all left me feeling empathy towards the main character.
I highly recommend this great read !

Linda W. (Maplewood, NJ)

Walking with Witnesses
A brilliant collection of short stories that take you on a walk with survivors. You will become a witness to human nature in motion. The characters of these stories , although only glimpsed for a short period, run the gamut of emotions. Varna looks at the world through a microscope and binoculars at the same time.

...20 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Vauhini Vara

Vauhini Vara has been a reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and the New York Times Magazine, and is the prize-winning author of The Immortal King Rao. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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