Mid-Air: Two Novellas (Hardcover)
“[B[oth these fine novellas unfurl the kind of complicated family tapestries that every generation ends up weaving from money and love.” —Wall Street Journal
Fate is explored in the fall and rise of two twentieth-century American families.
Victoria Shorr’s remarkable gift for depicting the inner lives of complex characters shines in two powerful explorations of family, ambition, class, and status.
In “Great Uncle Edward,” a family gathers for dinner. At ninety-three, Great Uncle Edward commands the table in his three-piece suit; Cousin Russell attended both Harvard and Yale but is now reduced to selling off the family books; sisters Betty and Molly are caught between ghosts of a storied past and creeping destitution. These lives are signposts along the downward spiral of an old aristocracy. “Cleveland Auto Wrecking” introduces Sam White, an immigrant from eastern Europe. He cannot read but has a gift for math and an instinct for the value of junk. We follow his clan through the Depression to the postwar boom in the West, where their fortunes soar, creating new tests of loyalty.
Taken together, these two novellas might be the reverse images of the American dream in the twentieth century. They ask to what degree, in the face of such powerful forces as love, death, and social constraints, do any of us have control over our own lives.
— Alida Becker - New York Times Book Review
[An] inventive excavation of the past, this one in the form of two novellas whose themes are family and class, one an account of patrician decline and the other a tale of rags to riches. Each is a minor masterpiece.....Together they form a witty and moving portrait of American life going back a half-century or more....Ms. Shorr excels at capturing the arc of a relationship as well as of a life.
— Daniel Akst - Wall Street Journal
Victoria Shorr is a conjurer of the highest order, artfully creating apposite tales of family ruin and family success in her wry, insightful, and elegant prose.
— Lily Tuck, National Book Award–winning author of The News from Paraguay and Sisters
The two novellas in Victoria Shorr's book Mid-Air are intimate portraits of inclusion and exclusion, as well as the dangers implicit in nostalgia. Rich with an acerbic skepticism and abetted by the unexpected detail that renders something humorous, Shorr writes with a tolerance of ambiguity that is provocative as well as enlightening.
— Susanna Moore, author of Miss Aluminum
Shorr proves herself a literary mimic of the first order with these two pitch-perfect stories…[She] cleverly juxtaposes how one aspect of American society falls as another rises, and both novellas have a novellike density of detail and depth of characterization. Together, they offer rich rewards.
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Shorr’s prose is fluid and supple….her insights are so keen, and her storytelling so elegant and natural….this book is a quiet accomplishment.
— Kirkus Reviews
In style and substance, Shorr summons the works of Anne Tyler as she rejoices in her characters’ day-to-day experiences, dropping pearls of insight into crystalline vignettes.
— Booklist (starred)