"You Are Not A Stranger Here"
(Reviewed by Bill Robinson OCT 31, 2002)
Haslett has the remarkable ability to make the pain of mental illness quite real. And, he has the creative skills to take the reader to the heart of this sad territory and make it feel familiar. Hence the "you" in the title.
The book begins with a story about a manic-depressive father and his tragic/comic encounter with a gay son. Another story chronicles the visit of a rural Midwestern psychiatrist with a woman who has had her fingers chopped off with a meat cleaver by her methamphetamine-crazed teenage son. The son dies several days later by crashing a truck into a highway overpass.
Other stories portray a teenager who looses both parents--his mother to suicide (he pulls her head out of the oven) and his father a year later to an horrendous car accident. The teen finds that he can only feel emotion when being physically abused. We see a former high school teacher with major depression as he contemplates suicide, a real estate agent painfully dying of AIDS. One story tells of an eleven-year-old boy who can predict impending death, and he does so with his older brother's.
Be warned: Haslett country is, if anything, quite bleak. A concise and straightforward writing style helps support the mood. As you might infer from the above, expect no pretty pictures. But be prepared to relate to these characters and their pain and predicaments in a deeply meaningful way. This is Haslett's gift.
You Are Not A Stranger Here is Haslett's first book, and its reception has been highly positive. It was chosen as Book of the Month by NBC's Today Show Book Club, and in conjunction Haslett was interviewed on national TV. He said in that interview that while none of the stories are autobiographical, his father was manic-depressive. So, he has firsthand experience concerning some of what he writes.
So, if you can stand a visit to the dark side of the human condition, the rewards are moments of unusual insight. Just make the journey with both eyes open and with an attitude of acceptance. Prepare to be mentally and emotionally disturbed, if not genuinely depressed. These stories are important, but by no means light, reading.
- Amazon readers rating: from 55 reviews
Read a story excerpt from You Are Not a Stranger Here at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
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- Official website for Adam Haslett
- Wikipedia page on Adam Haslett
- Salon.com review of You are Not a Stranger Here
- SFGate review of You Are Not a Stranger Here
- ReviewOfBooks.com collection of reviews for You Are Not a Stranger Here
- MostlyFiction.com review of Union Atlantic
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About the Author:
Adam Haslett is a graduate of Swarthmore College (1992) and the Iowa Writers Workshop (MFA 1999) and Yale Law School (JD, 2003). He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He received the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award in 2003 and the PEN/Malamud Award in 2006. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The Atlantic, Zoetrope, and Best American Short Stories as well as National Public Radio's Selected Shorts. He has been a finalist for a National Magazine Award and received fellowships from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and the Michener/Copernicus Society of America. He is currently a student at Yale Law School.
You Are Not a Stranger Here was a finalist for the prestigious 2002 National Book Awards and shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize.