Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson
Author: Adam Johnson
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published by Random House (August 18, 2015)
Source: eGalley from publisher
What it's about (via Goodreads):
These brand new stories from Johnson are typically comic and tender, absurd and totally universal. In post-Katrina Louisiana, a young man and his new girlfriend search for the mother of his son. In Palo Alto, a computer programmer whose wife has a rare disease finds solace in a digital copy of the recently assassinated President. In contemporary Berlin a former Stasi agent ponders his past. Hugely inventive and endlessly energetic, this is a heart wrenching, surprising collection of stories that show Johnson at the top of his form.
One of my favorite passages:
The boarded-up Outback Steakhouse next door is swamped with FEMA campers, and a darkened AMC 16 is a Lollapalooza of urban camping. It's crazy, but weeks after losing everything, people seem to have more stuff than ever - and it's all the shit you'd want to get rid of: Teflon pans, old towels, coffee cans of silverware. How do you tell your thin bedsheets from your neighbor's? Can you separate your yellowed, mismatched Tupperware from the world's?
Although I'd never read anything by author Adam Johnson, I was pretty taken by his writing style from the first paragraph; there are certainly topics/themes within many of the stories in this collection to which I could readily relate and I definitely enjoyed the gritty, dark side of the subject matter. As a hospital employee with direct patient care experience, I definitely felt an emotional pull during the first story, "Nirvana," which explores the plight of a woman who has been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome. She is concerned about what the end of her life will look like, as well as the continuation of the lives of those around her, which is certainly a common response to the loss of control that one experiences with a disease of this magnitude. As a girl of the 90s, I also loved the fact that her husband is bewildered by her recent fascination with Kurt Cobain; I'm not sure why I loved the words so much either, but I did.
Without a doubt, my favorite story was the second one, "Hurricane Anonymous," probably because I grew up in a small Texas town, close to the Gulf and the border of Louisiana, and am no stranger to the plight of those displaced by hurricanes nor the disasters of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita which are the subject of this particular story. At times reminding me of Chris Gardner's tale in The Pursuit of Happyness, the main character is trying to maintain his job as a driver for UPS while caring for his young son whose mother has landed herself in the local jail; in addition, he is experiencing the kind of post-storm shock that lingers within the stories of local residents, the trash in their yards and the fact that no one has a place to call home.
Similar to the experience of fellow blogger Shannon at River City Reading, I found that I was less interested in the final two stories; I feel that this may be due to the fact that this collection started with such a bang, for me. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend this one to those of you who appreciate the not-so-tidy details of illness, destruction and other emotionally-trying events; Johnson does a great job of highlighting the hope within the tough parts of life, which is the true treasure within this work.