Summary and book reviews of The Wrong Heaven by Amy Bonnafons

The Wrong Heaven

by Amy Bonnafons

The Wrong Heaven by Amy Bonnafons X
The Wrong Heaven by Amy Bonnafons
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2018, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 14, 2020, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

For fans of George Saunders and Karen Russell, an "amazing, wildly inventive" collection of stories that straddles the line between the real and the fantastical.

In The Wrong Heaven, anything is possible: bodies can transform, inanimate objects come to life, angels appear and disappear.

Bonnaffons draws us into a delightfully strange universe, in which her conflicted characters seek to solve their sexual and spiritual dilemmas in all the wrong places. The title story's heroine reckons with grief while arguing with loquacious Jesus and Mary lawn ornaments that come to life when she plugs them in. In "Horse," we enter a world in which women transform themselves into animals through a series of medical injections. In "Alternate," a young woman convinces herself that all she needs to revive a stagnant relationship is the perfect poster of the Dalai Lama.

While some of the worlds to which Bonnaffons transports us are more recognizable than others, all of them uncover the mysteries beneath the mundane surfaces of our lives. Enormously funny, boldly inventive, and as provocative as they are deeply affecting, these stories lay bare the heart of our deepest longings.

Excerpt
The Wrong Heaven

Evidence in Favor of Jesus Being on My Side:

  1. Word of God, as appears in Bible (obv.)
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Pipe organs
  4. Meditative feeling brought on by needlepoint
  5. Rodgers & Hammerstein
  6. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (existence)
  7. flowers/constant renewal of life cycle
  8. Billie Holiday (singer)
  9. Billie Holiday (dog)
  10. Theory that everything exists for purpose, pain and trouble sent as trials, all to bring us closer to God, etc.
  11. Way students say "Oh!" when pet caterpillars turn into butterflies

Evidence Against:

  1. Genocide/wanton destruction
  2. Insomnia
  3. Evolution
  4. Animal cruelty
  5. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (world's treatment of)
  6. Dimpled thighs
  7. General lack of love in life
  8. death of Billie Holiday (singer)
  9. Early death of Billie Holiday (dog)
  10. Dream in which I slap Jesus's face
  11. Dream in which Jesus slaps my face
  12. Dreams in which Jesus and I sit mutely on folding chairs in a blank room, as in group therapy, but with no therapist, wanting to slap each ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

There are moments when the collection seems to be merely quirky for quirkiness' sake, and some readers may find these eccentricities grating. (The titular story featuring the talking lawn ornaments, for example, is aimless, a mere device for delivering something strange.) When all systems are firing, however, the magical elements in The Wrong Heaven are very effective tonally, providing a touch of sinister menace or even silliness to stories that read like fairy tales for world-weary adults.   (Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Full Review (643 words).

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Media Reviews

Booklist
In her first collection, Bonnaffons dazzles and cuts with 10 hilarious and cathartic short stories...Bonnaffons' first collection presents a powerful and fresh new voice.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This is an outstanding, exciting debut.

Library Journal
Starred Review. At once goofy, poignant, and edged with the fantastic, the stories in Bonnaffons's debut collection initially surprise, then turn into one long, delicious rush.

Author Blurb Aimee Bender, New York Times bestselling author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Incredibly fun to read but also full of these frank and wise observations that stuck in my head long after.

Author Blurb Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang and Perfect Little World
In her amazing, wildly inventive collection, Amy Bonnaffons writes about transformation, each story further complicating the world as we know it. With a style that blends humor and sincerity in such strange, perfect ratios, Bonnaffons reveals the mysteries inside of us, just waiting to make themselves known. The Wrong Heaven, so wondrous, will alter you in all the necessary ways.

Author Blurb Darin Strauss, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of Chang and Eng and Half a Life
Amy Bonnaffons is the real deal. She's a woman of impossible juxtapositions. Funny and wise, thrilling and disciplined, strange and masterful. Do yourself a favor and read this: you'll be surprised where you find yourself, but you'll never feel lost.

Author Blurb Boris Fishman, author of Don't Let Me Baby Do Rodeo
God, these stories. I wanted to stop people on the street. I know contemporary writers who can lacerate, and I know others who are funny, and I even know some who can pull off pathos. But I don't know any who can do all three at once - with mastery, mischief, and meaning - like Amy Bonnaffons.

Author Blurb Kayla Rae Whitaker, author of The Animators
Like the best storytelling, The Wrong Heaven feels like a gift - warm, intimate, and very, very funny. The characters are messy and vibrant and gloriously flawed, and their transformations are absolutely enthralling. This energizing collection will stay with me - happily so - for a long time. Read it.

Author Blurb Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks
These stories are eerie, enthralling, and hilarious. Women grow hooves, carve dolls who talk, have sex (or almost) with angels. Bonnaffons is a masterful chronicler of female desire and its discontents.

Author Blurb Stephen O'Connor, author of Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings
Amy Bonnaffons surprises her readers with the truth...There are many stories in this brilliantly inventive collection that I will never forget, and that I will read again and again over the course of my life.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Earworms: Why Do We Get Songs Stuck in Our Heads?

EarwormIn one of The Wrong Heaven's most memorable stories, the narrator feels she is gradually losing her mind when she cannot get the song "Hand in My Pocket" by Alanis Morissette out of her head. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as an "earworm." The word has a multi-strand history: Apparently, in ancient times, dried and ground earwigs were used to treat ear disease, and became known as auricula, which is the Latin name for the outer ear. This practice became misunderstood to mean that earwigs - or earworms as they were also called - crawled into people's ears. Later the definition of earworm shifted to refer to a moth larvae that burrowed into corn. At the same time, the German word for the insect earwig is ohrwurm - ohr ("ear") +‎...

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