In the title story of this collection, "Survival Rates," a husband's thyroid cancer appears to be a greater threat to his marriage than it does to his health. The young girl who survives an accident in "Jumping" ends up a casualty anyway. In "Howard Johnson's House," a plastic surgeon repairs a nine year old girl's nose after it is severely damaged by a dog bite. Even before the injury, however, the child's nose was hideous. When the surgeon gives her a cosmetically perfect nose, the girl's mother is not merely disappointed but outraged. Two girls must adapt to life after colon surgery in "Krista Had a Treble Clef Rose."


All nine stories in this collection revolve around the difficulty and uncertainty of "survival." How and why do people go on after calamity? These stories are littered with images such as a large pile of unread JAMAs (Journal[s] of the America Medical Association), radioactive iodine capsules, a Jackson Pratt drain, and destitute souls. Tragedy is strewn across the lives of these characters on a daily basis. Survival is seen as an alternative to suffering and death yet the process is complicated and confusing.

Some of these characters only discover life as they are dying. Dreamers are the only people who seem genuinely content. No disaster has ever been prevented by worrying about it. Love figures into the formula of survival, and the ability to forgive emerges as an intrinsic component of love. These stories demonstrate how the spirit ultimately survives when misfortune strikes.


This collection won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction.


The Univ. of Georgia Press

Place Published

Athens, Ga.



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