May 06, Pages. May 02, Pages. Reminiscent of Aimee Bender and Karen Russell, from the author of the new collection, Awayland —an enthralling book of stories that uses the world of the imagination to explore the heart of the human condition. A Guide to Being Born is organized around the stages of life—love, conception, gestation, birth—and the transformations that happen as people experience deeply altering life events, falling in love, becoming parents, looking toward the end of life. More about Ramona Ausubel. Ausubel has a gift of language so rich that even the most mundane events are invested with poetry, and many of her characters are in need of all the poetry they can muster.
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Add to Cart. About A Guide to Being Born Reminiscent of Aimee Bender and Karen Russell, from the author of the new collection, Awayland —an enthralling book of stories that uses the world of the imagination to explore the heart of the human condition. Also by Ramona Ausubel. See all books by Ramona Ausubel. This works well in some places, and not so, well in others. Giving the reader freedom to draw their own lines from point to point is freeing, and yet, we go into stories looking for thematic associations when maybe there shouldn't be any.
There's no mistaking that Ausubel can string a yarn of words together to create gold. Her sentences are fluid and tight, descriptive pinpricks of adjectives and descriptors. And yet, never during the course of A Guide to Being Born 's quick pages does Ausubel ever lose control of its flow.
A Guide to Being Born: Stories
In fact, it's her prose that keeps less plot-driven stories like "Safe Passage" and "Saver" from sinking under their own malaise. Ausubel's strength as a writer of short stories comes from her delicate prose. But as she pours the liquid of her prose into one measuring cup, the plot balancing cup runs empty from time to time.
The mother and father in "Poppyseed" are relatable in their actions -- the mother writes to her mentally disabled daughter in a diary, the father takes a promotion as a head tour guide aboard a ghost ship to provide for his family's increasing medical bills - -but also startlingly unrelatable by the story's end. What should be catharsis for the couple, and simultaneously for the reader, gives way to inherent sadness and unresolved plot points that linger heavily.
A GUIDE TO BEING BORN by Ramona Ausubel | Kirkus Reviews
Ausubel's stories don't have easy endings; most of them are messy and unresolved, some are questionable in their outcome, and nothing is explicitly defined -- not even birth or death are absolutes e. But there's a maddening lack of consolation by the collection's end, which is, more often than not, uncomfortable to reconcile with. Not all stories have to make the reader comfortable or tidy up the messes that characters are entangled in. Most short fiction doesn't offer simple endings, nor should it. But from the outset, Ausubel imbues a sense of fulfillment in most of her stories, which makes the others that lack it feel that much weightier.
The stories that fare the best in A Guide to Being Born are the ones that utilize humor in strange and fantastical ways: the Civil War general playing catch with Buck in "Catch and Release", the insanity of the family in "Snow Remote" not to mention the excellent use of cursing by the characters , Annie's total acceptance of her husband, Ben's, physical deformity in "Chest of Drawers". Ausubel can twist an unbelievable premise into a believable one in a few paragraphs and have you wanting more by the story's end.
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