Fortune Smiles: Stories!, by Adam Johnson

My boss recently read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which lost out to the subject of this review for the National Book Award. She was, and I quote, "incensed" that it didn't win. So naturally, having had Fortune Smiles on my shelf for nearly two years, I had to read it and see what was judged better than this book my boss could not stop talking about.

Full disclosure: I haven't read A Little Life, but I'm hard-pressed to imagine that Fortune Smiles is better than it. It's good, don't get me wrong, really good. The stories "Interesting Fact" and "Dark Meadow" are especially well written. In the former, our first person narrator is a breast cancer survivor with a writer husband and three children, concerned that the single women at her children's school will provide too much temptation for her husband during her convalescence. But things aren't necessarily as they seem through the eyes of this unreliable narrator. As for "Dark Meadow"'s beyond me how Johnson managed to make a pedophile into a likeable character. Seriously. I don't want to say more because it's best discovered for oneself, but the baffling mix of discomfort and concern make for a truly unique reading experience. The stories are all very good, quite different but with a common theme of failed interpersonal connection. I was impressed, yes, but not entranced, and given my boss's reaction to A Little Life, I doubt her opinion about the award would change much should she read Fortune Smiles.

Judge for yourself!


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