Summary and book reviews of The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken

The Souvenir Museum

by Elizabeth McCracken

The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken X
The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2021, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2022, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Daniela Schofield
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About this Book

Book Summary

Award-winning author Elizabeth McCracken is an undisputed virtuoso of the short story, and this new collection features her most vibrant and heartrending work to date.

In these stories, the mysterious bonds of family are tested, transformed, fractured, and fortified. A recent widower and his adult son ferry to a craggy Scottish island in search of puffins. An actress who plays a children's game-show villainess ushers in the New Year with her deadbeat half brother. A mother, pining for her children, feasts on loaves of challah to fill the void. A new couple navigates a tightrope walk toward love. And on a trip to a Texas water park with their son, two fathers each confront a personal fear.

With sentences that crackle and spark and showcase her trademark wit, McCracken traces how our closely held desires—for intimacy, atonement, comfort—bloom and wither against the indifferent passing of time. Her characters embark on journeys that leave them indelibly changed—and so do her readers. The Souvenir Museum showcases the talents of one of our finest contemporary writers as she tenderly takes the pulse of our collective and individual lives.

A Most Anticipated Book From: OprahMag.com * Refinery 29 * Seattle Times * LitHub * Houston Chronicle * The Millions * Buzzfeed



We are unable to display an excerpt from The Souvenir Museum, but you can read a complete short story at Oprah.com



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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Just as enjoyable as the subject matter of the stories is the artful way in which McCracken has constructed each. The narratives move quickly, ensuring the transition between plots is smooth. Every story completes a satisfying arc that frequently includes an unexpected turn or surprise, and readers may find it only becomes apparent at the end that the author has packed in quite a lot of detail and action. McCracken truly shines in her use of dialogue and sumptuous prose, as in her description of one character with "a beef bourguignon voice."..continued

Full Review Members Only (495 words).

(Reviewed by Daniela Schofield).

Media Reviews

Literary Hub
Wry, emotionally complex family stories...McCracken is a tremendously sharp, soulful, and witty writer, rightfully considered one of finest American short story practitioners at work today.

New York Times Book Review
Humor illuminates her work, revealing things clearly that we might have overlooked. McCracken refuses to distinguish between the absurdity of comedy and the absurdity of tragedy.

San Francisco Chronicle
McCracken knows all kinds of subtle, enticing secrets of the heart and conveys them in silky, transparent language.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
McCracken's sly, emotionally complex collection focuses on characters uprooted from their usual surroundings...McCracken has a gift for surprising similes...that ignite the reader's imagination, making great fun out of ordinary settings and scenery. Each story opens to reveal a whole life spent within the web of a family, chosen or not. Full of gems, this collection is a winner.

Refinery 29
Elizabeth McCracken is a master of the short story and each of the stories in this gem of a collection shows a different facet of the human experience, shining all the brighter for having had McCracken's attention paid to it for a little while.

The Washington Post
There’s a wickedness to McCracken’s technique, the way she lures us in with her witty voice and oddball characters but then kicks the wind out of us. She never misses the infamous 7-10 split, managing to hit Annie Proulx and Anne Tyler with the same ball.

The Guardian (UK)
[McCracken] writes from pain and makes something beautiful from it, and, because she is a writer of remarkable sensitivity and has such a light touch, because so much love is in the observation, something wonderful happens, a kind of transcendence. The mundane becomes profound, and, against all odds, the reader is left feeling uplifted.

Booklist
[A]n assured collection… McCracken opens up worlds in a mere sentence, and every page is illuminated with nuanced observations of human behavior.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
McCracken's stories are often heartbreaking, but those about Jack and Sadie are particularly incisive, showing all the hidden crevices of a long-term relationship...An astonishingly powerful collection worth multiple readings.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Challah

Challah loafIn "Birdsong from the Radio," a story in Elizabeth McCracken's collection The Souvenir Museum, the main character fills the void of her missing children by consuming a loaf of challah daily. Challah is a traditional Jewish bread that is usually braided. It can come in many different forms, but it is often made as a soft, fluffy yeast bread, similar in consistency to brioche or Greek tsoureki, that is coated with an egg wash. Some varieties of challah are made with a topping, such as poppy or sesame seeds. 

Bread has been important in Jewish traditions for centuries. The word "challah" refers to the Hebrew word for "portion," and the name comes from a commandment in the Torah ...

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