Summary and book reviews of The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

The Office of Historical Corrections

A Novella and Stories

by Danielle Evans

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans X
The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans
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  • Published:
    Nov 2020, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Nichole Brazelton
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About this Book

Book Summary

The award-winning author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self brings her signature voice and insight to the subjects of race, grief, apology, and American history.

Danielle Evans is widely acclaimed for her blisteringly smart voice and x-ray insights into complex human relationships. With The Office of Historical Corrections, Evans zooms in on particular moments and relationships in her characters' lives in a way that allows them to speak to larger issues of race, culture, and history. She introduces us to Black and multiracial characters who are experiencing the universal confusions of lust and love, and getting walloped by grief—all while exploring how history haunts us, personally and collectively. Ultimately, she provokes us to think about the truths of American history—about who gets to tell them, and the cost of setting the record straight.

In "Boys Go to Jupiter," a white college student tries to reinvent herself after a photo of her in a Confederate-flag bikini goes viral. In "Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain," a photojournalist is forced to confront her own losses while attending an old friend's unexpectedly dramatic wedding. And in the eye-opening title novella, a black scholar from Washington, DC, is drawn into a complex historical mystery that spans generations and puts her job, her love life, and her oldest friendship at risk.

Happily Ever After

When Lyssa was seven, her mother took her to see the movie where the mermaid wants legs, and when it ended Lyssa shook her head and squinted at the prince and said, Why would she leave her family for that? which for years contributed to the prevailing belief that she was sentimental or softhearted, when in fact she just knew a bad trade when she saw one. The whole ocean for one man. Not that she knew much about the ocean; Lyssa had been born in a landlocked state, and at thirty it seemed the closest she might get to the sea was her job working the gift shop in the lobby of the Titanic. It was not a metaphor: it was an actual replica of the Titanic, with a mini museum on the lower level, though most of their business came from weddings and children's birthday parties hosted on the upper decks.

The ship-shaped building was a creation of the late nineties, the pet project of an enterprising educational capitalist who wanted to build an attraction both rigorous in its ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This collection contains six short stories along with the titular novella, a piece that challenges American narratives stemming from a colonial and racist past. It would be easy to assume that the novella is the highlight of the book, with the preceding stories serving as mere preludes, but this assumption would be inaccurate. While the novella is certainly memorable and arresting, the short stories stand alone as prescient, unique literary revelations of mortality, desire and other aspects of the human condition. From "Boys Go to Jupiter," an account of a thoughtless white college student who faces the consequences of donning a Confederate-flag bikini in rebellion against her stepmother, to a twisted tale of male ego and the objectification of women in "Why Won't Women Just Say What They Want," each story follows overarching themes of apology, correction and grief with its own distinctive narrative...continued

Full Review Members Only (717 words).

(Reviewed by Nichole Brazelton).

Media Reviews

The Chicago Tribune
The Office of Historical Corrections, a novella, is presented here along with other stories that chronicle how history — racial and cultural — continue to reverberate through daily life. Danielle Evans continues to write provocative fiction about people of color, raising questions about who gets to dictate our national narrative.

New York Times
Evans is particularly gifted at depicting character, especially female protagonists...[her] propulsive narratives read as though they’re getting away with something, building what feel like novelistic plots onto the short story’s modest real estate...[The title novella] marries Melvillian mundanity with melodramatic suspense. I could have kept reading for pages.

The Guardian
These stories offer the lose yourself depth of a novel in intense, digestible portions. Evans is blessed with perfect pitch when it comes to dialogue – both in terms of what is spoken and what goes unsaid.

The Washington Post
Evans's storytelling shines...her characters are sharp, with terrific depth, and her prose is a pleasure to read. It's a strong, acerbic follow-up to her prizewinning 2010 release.

Vulture
Every story in The Office of Historical Collections is on point...but the ancestral thriller novella that spawned its title is completely transformative.

Buzzfeed
[The Office of Historical Corrections is] the most astonishing thing I've read this fall.

Publishers Weekly
Evans brings her usual wit and keen eye to her latest collection...Despite its shortcomings, this is a timely, entertaining collection from a talented writer who isn't afraid to take chances.

Library Journal
Evans beautifully captures the multilayered dimensions of her characters, and she's adept at expressing the humor and pathos of their existence even as they make decisions that call their judgment into question. The gem here is the novella, but the entire collection is heartily recommended for all fans of short fiction.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The eponymous novella that closes the book is a stunner...To say much more would only detract from storytelling that is gripping on every level. Necessary narratives, brilliantly crafted.

Booklist (starred review)
Evans solidifies her reputation as one of the most thought-provoking contemporary storytellers...[she] crafts her stories with a surgeon's precision. Each detail meticulously builds on the last, leading to satisfying, unforeseeable plot twists. The language is colorful and drenched with emotion. Readers won’t be able to look away from the page as Evans captivates them in a world all her own.

Author Blurb Roxane Gay, New York Times-bestselling author of Difficult Women and Bad Feminist
With the seven brilliant stories in The Office of Historical Corrections, Danielle Evans demonstrates, once again, that she is the finest short story writer working today. These stories are sly and prescient, a nuanced reflection of the world we are living in, one where the rules are changing, and truth is mutable and resentments about nearly everything have breached the surface of what is socially acceptable. These stories are wickedly smart and haunting in what they say about the human condition… Her language is nimble, her sentences immensely pleasurable to read, and in every single story there is a breathtaking surprise, an unexpected turn, a moment that will leave you speechless, and wanting more.

Author Blurb Rebecca Makkai, National Book Award finalist for The Great Believers
Danielle Evans is a stone-cold genius, in possession of both a merciless eye and a merciful heart. And she keeps getting better.

Author Blurb Kelly Link, author of Get In Trouble
A dazzling collection. Contemporary life in Danielle Evans's stories has a kind of incandescent and dangerous energy: even in moments of somberness or isolation, her characters crackle with heat, light, and self-awareness.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer cells in a 3-D model In Danielle Evans' collection The Office of Historical Corrections, the short story "Happily Ever After" centers around Lyssa, who at 30 years old is navigating life after her mother's death from ovarian cancer and has been advised to have her own ovaries removed as soon as possible. Ovarian cancer is the seventh most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, and the eighth leading cause of cancer-related death for women. It is the deadliest form of gynecologic cancer.

Racial disparities exist in the outcomes of ovarian cancer. Notably, white women are statistically more likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but Black women are more likely to die from it. This reality has been attributed to several factors. Some studies have shown ...

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