Summary and book reviews of You Should Pity Us Instead by Amy Gustine

You Should Pity Us Instead

by Amy Gustine

You Should Pity Us Instead by Amy Gustine X
You Should Pity Us Instead by Amy Gustine
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Feb 2016, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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About this Book

Book Summary

A debut collection of short stories which sympathetically explores some of the toughest dilemmas we face in our struggle though life.

You Should Pity Us Instead explores some of our toughest dilemmas: the cost of Middle East strife at its most intimate level, the likelihood of God considered in day-to-day terms, the moral stakes of family obligations, and the inescapable fact of mortality. Amy Gustine exhibits an extraordinary generosity toward her characters, instilling them with a thriving, vivid presence.

From "All the Sons of Cain"

After they find out where she lives, they start coming every week, sometimes every day. Wednesday morning they come especially early, waking her. R's mother stays in bed, yearning for coffee and the bathroom, but fearful of nearing the window. She knows what she'll see below: her son's scrawny face imprinted on cheap poster board, hoisted on stave and dowel by protesters who misspell his name. Sometimes they use him to protest another prisoner trade, sometimes to support it; sometimes to urge settlements, other times to condemn those already built; to push for a two-state solution or to warn against it. Once they were protesting a tax, another time something to do with toilets. R's mother doesn't want to know what they're using her son for today. Reconciliation and revenge. Hostages and prisoners. Murderers and soldiers. It all sounds the same from up here.

She turns to the wall and pulls the blanket over her shoulder. Retired from her ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. At the end of "All the Sons of Cain" R's mother sees men praying on the beach. She hopes "her boy is among them." Is this her son? Or the boy she has been staying with in Gaza? Do you feel it could possibly be both? Why or why not?
  2. What is the significance of the fact that R's mother adopted him after an earthquake in "old Byzantium" (modern day Istanbul, Turkey, formerly called Constantinople) left him unidentified and homeless?
  3. In "Unattended" what do you make of the ending? How is this memory "saving Joanne's life" today? " As Joanne jogged up the sidewalk, turning her back on ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Ultimately, as a short story writer, Gustine is on the right path. Some of her stories work beautifully, with her characters more lively because of her insistence that we think beyond our immediate feelings. Some don’t work all too well. But it’s clear in her efforts that the short story form has interested her for a long time, that she has a vast emotional landscape to explore here, and that her fertile imagination makes the mundane in daily life crackle...continued

Full Review (699 words).

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(Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Gustine's language is uniformly remarkable for its clarity and forthrightness.

Kirkus
Starred Review. Gustine's stories give the impression that in every life there is a story worth telling, of triumph and of pain, if only we take the time to look.

Booklist
Starred Review. Gustine's tales are bursting with startling insights, stabbing dialogue, ambushing metaphors, and stunning moments of dissonance. Her first collection aligns her with such short story stars as Joy Williams, Antonya Nelson, and Bonnie Jo Campbell.

Author Blurb Karen Russell
Amy Gustine's You Should Pity Us Instead is a devastating, funny, and astonishingly frank collection of stories. Gustine can be brutally honest about the murky calculations, secret dreams and suppressed malice to which most of us never admit, not even to ourselves.

Author Blurb Laura Kasischke
You Should Pity Us Instead is an unbroken spell from first story to last, despite the enormous range of subjects and landscapes, sufferings and joys it explores.

Author Blurb Ben Stroud
Amy Gustine's stories cross impossible borders both physical and moral: a mother looking for her kidnapped son sneaks into Gaza, an Ellis Island inspector mourning his lost love plays God at the boundary between old world and new. Brave, essential, thrilling, each story in You Should Pity Us Instead takes us to those places we've never dared visit before.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Etc. But First, They Have to Stand in Line

Ellis Island Station #2Before Ellis Island became the "Welcome to America" sign for about 12 million immigrants from 1892 to 1954, Castle Garden on the waterfront at the tip of Manhattan was the first official immigration hub. From 1855 to 1890 it took in over 8 million immigrants mostly from Northern Europe.

However, worsening conditions in Europe ensured a quickly growing number of immigrants, and Castle Garden could not handle those crowds. So the federal government stepped in and set about building an immigration station that they would operate. They chose Ellis Island for its location and doubled its size (from three to six acres) by adding landfill. During that time the Barge Office at the Battery processed immigrants.

On January 1, 1892, the Ellis ...

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