Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Awayland [review]


Awayland by Ramona Ausubel
Published by Riverhead Books on March 6, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 
3.89 (as of 2018-04-06)
cw: suicide, familial death, incest, pedophilia

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

An inventive story collection that spans the globe as it explores love, childhood, and parenthood with an electric mix of humor and emotion.

Acclaimed for the grace, wit, and magic of her novels, Ramona Ausubel introduces us to a geography both fantastic and familiar in eleven new stories, some of them previously published in The New Yorker and The Paris Review. Elegantly structured, these stories span the globe and beyond, from small-town America and sunny Caribbean islands to the Arctic Ocean and the very gates of Heaven itself. And though some of the stories are steeped in mythology, they remain grounded in universal experiences: loss of identity, leaving home, parenthood, joy, and longing.

Crisscrossing the pages of Awayland are travelers and expats, shadows and ghosts. A girl watches as her homesick mother slowly dissolves into literal mist. The mayor of a small Midwestern town offers a strange prize, for stranger reasons, to the parents of any baby born on Lenin’s birthday. A chef bound for Mars begins an even more treacherous journey much closer to home. And a lonely heart searches for love online–never mind that he’s a Cyclops. 

With her signature tenderness, Ramona Ausubel applies a mapmaker’s eye to landscapes both real and imagined, all the while providing a keen guide to the wild, uncharted terrain of the human heart.

Where she had once been a precise oil painting, now she was a watercolor.

I’ve been looking forward to this for a while. I’ve been really into short story collections, particularly “””weird””” ones, for a while now and had Awayland on my TBR for a couple months prior to its release. I was actually stoked when I opened up my library copy and realized that Ramona had also written A Guide to Being Born, which has been on my TBR for ages and just looks gorgeous and great.

She grew up with the feeling that children must simply appear, unbidden. Who would want to make any more of them? It was as if they hatched in some dirty, neglected corner like so many baby cockroaches and the grown-ups had had no choice but to try to raise them.

This particular collection was sorted into four sections, each with its highs and lows. I had a couple I vibed with particularly strongly and others that didn’t really stand out to me. I’ll list the sections, stories, and individual ratings below:

I remember being sixteen and feeling so in love with my friends that it seemed like they would be enough to sustain me for the rest of time.

A. Bay of Hungers
You Can Find Love Now  ⭐⭐⭐
Fresh Water from the Sea  ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
Template for a Proclamation to Save the Species  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

B. The Cape of Persistent Hope
Mother Land  ⭐⭐⭐
Departure Lounge  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Remedy  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

C. The Lonesome Flats
Club Zeus  ⭐⭐⭐
High Desert  ⭐⭐⭐
Heaven  ⭐⭐

D. The Dream Isles
The Animal Mummies Wish to Thank the Following  ⭐⭐
Do Not Save the Ferocious, Save the Tender  ⭐⭐

She was too tired now, too worn through to love anyone back.

My average rating was 3.32 stars, which I rounded down to 3. As you can see I had a few favorites toward the beginning but the second half fell a bit flat for me. I still recommend this book, particularly to lovers of literary fiction, and I’m looking forward to picking up more of Ramona’s work!

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

6 thoughts on “Awayland [review]”

  1. I’m so obsessed with this cover and I’m sort of tempted to buy it just for that but I’m also sure I won’t like it because I don’t really enjoy magical realism?? This struggle. Anyway great review, I totally know what you mean about some stories clicking with you more than others in a collection like this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ugh, I feel you, I tend to go back and forth on magical realism. The writing is really great, but sometimes I just end up so confused and like “ok some weird stuff happened but that’s about it?” I lowkey wanna buy my own copy for the cover, but also don’t ever see myself rereading it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we do, too! I definitely really loved the ones I loved, but the rest were just pretty words that didn’t elicit much in me. The pro is that it was a very quick read, so I didn’t waste too much time on the stuff I didn’t like.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I always find these uneven collections so frustrating – because I just know it could have been something really special if all the stories worked as well as the ones I adored.

        Liked by 1 person

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