Summary and book reviews of Sleepovers by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips

Sleepovers by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips X
Sleepovers by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips
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  • Published:
    Jun 2020, 0 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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About this Book

Book Summary

Hailed by Lauren Groff as "fully committed to the truth no matter how dark or difficult or complicated it may be," and written with "incantatory crispness," Sleepovers, the debut short story collection by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips.

This collection takes us to a forgotten corner of the rural South, full of cemeteries, soybean fields, fishing holes, and Duck Thru gas stations. We meet a runaway teen, a mattress salesman, feral kittens, an elderly bachelorette wearing a horsehair locket, and a little girl named after Shania Twain. Here, time and memory circle above Phillips' characters like vultures and angels, as they navigate the only landscape they've ever known. Corn reaches for rain, deer run blindly, and no matter how hungry or hurt, some forgotten hymn is always remembered. "The literary love child of Carson McCullers and John the Baptist, Ashleigh Bryant Phillips' imagination is profoundly original and private," writes Rebecca Lee. Sleepovers marks the debut of a fearless new voice in fiction.

Sleepovers is the winner of the 2019 C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize, selected by Lauren Groff.

The Truth About Miss Katie

I didn't like it when I heard what Miss Katie said at her going away party. And I probably shouldn't have been listening but I wanted to tell her goodbye. At the party she said, "Excuse me I have a phone call," and then she didn't come back in for a long time so I went out to the bleachers where she always talks on the phone because she says that's where she has best reception and I wish I didn't hear her. What she said. She didn't know I was there. And that was rude I guess and not good manners but Miss Katie is my favorite person—or was—because she's smart and pretty and always has her nails done nice and she told me that one time that my bush baby I did was looking so cute in the bush.

I had never done art before, I mean I'd seen it on TV like on Disney Channel and the Miley Cyrus show when she had to do a thing called a self-portrait. But that's why I loved when Miss Katie came. I just wanted to try art. You hear about it in all the stories, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

While many of the characters in the collection are isolated, Phillips creates the impression that they are never truly alone, outlining the imperfect, delicate ties that exist between them and the universe around them—whether familial, romantic, neighborly or cosmic. She also draws individual experiences with such intense vulnerability that they give way to a sense of collective human consciousness, engaging the reader in a kind of communion with them. This sense is so powerful that even when the stories lose momentum or appear rough-edged in their construction, as they sometimes do, their high points are often exquisite. Sleepovers is a breathtaking, evocative debut and an exciting literary journey...continued

Full Review Members Only (639 words).

(Reviewed by Elisabeth Cook).

Media Reviews

The New Yorker
The lives of Phillips’s characters transform with startling quickness, and a kind of presumed violence is omnipresent—yet everyone here is still trying to do their best...what’s most remarkable about her writing is its generosity. Even when they’re f***ing up or making bad decisions or metabolizing deep grief, these characters are full and rich and gloriously recognizable.

Booklist
A deeply human, unforgettable debut.

Foreword Reviews
Sleepovers is an unflinching collection through which the complexities, curiosities, and complications of rural Southern life come through.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Phillips demonstrates an impressive ease at depicting transition, trauma, and loss, brilliantly evoking a close-knit world held together by the strength of friendship. This collection stands out in the field of current Southern fiction.

Author Blurb Lauren Groff, author of Florida
Ashleigh's prose often holds an incantatory crispness that lulled me into forgetting that I was reading, particularly in extraordinarily sad stories like 'The Virgin' and 'An Unspoken,' both of which derive their power from an almost unbearable dramatic irony and an equally deep hunger for human connection and compassion. I see in this collection a steely writer, one deeply moved by her place and her people, but also fully committed to the truth no matter how dark or difficult or complicated it may be.

Author Blurb Mesha Maren, author of Sugar Run
There's some kind of crazy magic at work here—the way that Ashleigh Bryant Phillips takes all the little pieces of daily life that are there in plain sight just laying around and when she gathers them together they become holy, hilarious, transcendent, and unspeakably beautiful. Her style is utterly her own, with wonderful echoes of Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor and Larry Brown mixed in. Ashleigh Bryant Phillips is shockingly talented. I don't think the voices of her characters will ever leave my head.

Author Blurb Rebecca Lee, author of Bobcat and Other Stories
Very rarely a voice comes along that is astonishing in its originality and fresh wisdom. I don't think anybody sees the cruelty and the vitality of life as relentlessly and beautifully and brilliantly as Ashleigh Bryant Phillips. With Sleepovers, Phillips has intimately given us an entirely new way of seeing traditional life in small-town America. This book is so hard-core, so hard-won, so much a fabric of complicated gorgeous beauty. Part Sermon on the Mount, part Sylvia Plath's darkest images, part actual diary written from the heart of a sleepover, and part song of poverty and strife and genius, this is a book unlike any other written before it.

Author Blurb Scott McClanahan, author of The Sarah Book
It's hard not to be hyperbolic about Sleepovers. I can't remember a time when I've read a story collection so funny and sad and lyrical, all at the same time. In Sleepovers, Ashleigh Bryant Phillips gives us a book that's so much more than a story collection. It's a wild place we haven't been to before. And it isn't the South, or rural North Carolina, but a brand new place we can call 'Ashleigh Bryant Phillips.' This book is haunted.

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Beyond the Book

Minecraft and the Uncensored Library

Minecraft gameplay featuring blocky, pixelated human and animal characters The story "Mind Craft" in Sleepovers by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips is named for one character's incorrect way of referring to the video game Minecraft, which is a multi-platform "sandbox game," the term for a game that leaves the player relatively free to explore a setting without having to progress through it in a linear fashion. Minecraft is based around the simple idea of "mining" materials from various sources and then using those materials for construction. Known for its trademark blocky graphics and its virtually limitless possibilities for creation and exploration, it is one of the most popular games in the world and one of the best-selling video games of all time.

Minecraft was created by Swedish developer Markus "Notch" Persson ...

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