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From the New York Times bestselling author of Room comes a moving set of historical stories spanning centuries and continents.
The fascinating characters that roam across the pages of Emma Donoghue's stories have all gone astray: they are emigrants, runaways, drifters, lovers old and new. They are gold miners and counterfeiters, attorneys and slaves. They cross other borders too: those of race, law, sex, and sanity. They travel for love or money, incognito or under duress.
With rich historical detail, the celebrated author of Room takes us from puritan Massachusetts to revolutionary New Jersey, antebellum Louisiana to the Toronto highway, lighting up four centuries of wanderings that have profound echoes in the present. Astray offers us a surprising and moving history for restless times.
Tell us underneath what skies,
Upon what coasts of earth we have been cast;
We wander, ignorant of men and places,
And driven by the wind and the vast waves.
Virgil, The Aeneid,
translated by Allen Mandelbaum (1971)
Man and Boy
Off your tuck this morning, aren't you? That's not like you. It's the chill, perhaps. These March winds come straight from the Urals, up the Thames, or so they say. No, that's not your favorite Horse Guards playing, can't fool you; you never like it when they change the band. Fancy a bun? You'll feel the better for a good breakfast. Come along, have a couple of buns.…Please yourself, then.
Maybe later, after your bath.
I had some unpleasantness with the superintendent this morning. Yes, over you, my boy, need you ask? He's applied to the trustees for permission to buy a gun.
Calm down, no one's going to shoot you, or my name's not Matthew Scott. But let it be a warning. I don't mean to lay blame, but this is what comes of tantrums. (Demented rampages, the superintendent calls them.) Look at this old patched wall here; who was it that stove it in? To err is human and all that, but it don't excuse such an exhibition. You only went and hurt yourself, and you're still not the better for that abscess.
Anyway, the superintendent has an iddy-fix that you're a danger to the kiddies, now you're a man, as it were. Oh, you know and I know that's all my eye, you dote on the smalls. You don't care for confinement, that's all, and who can blame you? I can always settle you with a little wander round the Gardens to meet your friends. But the superintendent says, "What if you're off the premises, Scott, when the musth next comes on Jumbo? No other keeper here can handle him; every time I assign you an assistant, the creature terrorizes the fellow and sends him packing. It's a most irregular state of affairs, not to mention the pungency, and stains, and…well, engorgement. That member's wife almost fainted when she caught sight!"
I pointed out you could hardly help that.
"Besides, bull Africans are known for killing their keepers," he lectured me. "In one of his furies, he could swat you down with his little tail, then crush you with his skull."
"Not this elephant," I said, "nor this keeper."
Then he went off on a gory story about a crazed elephant he saw gunned down in the Strand when he was knee-high, 152 bullets it took, the superintendent's never been the same since. Well, that explains a lot about him.
I assure you, my boy, I stood up for you. I looked the old man in the watery eye and said, "We all have our off days. But Jumbo's a cleanly, hardworking fellow, as a rule. I have never felt afraid of him for one moment in the seventeen years he's been in my care."
He muttered something impertinent about that proving my arrogance rather than your safety. "I believe it's gone to your head, Scott."
"What has, Superintendent?"
"Jumbo's fame. You fancy yourself the cock of the walk."
I drew myself up. "If I enjoy a certain position in this establishment, if I was awarded a medal back in 'sixty-six, that is due to having bred, nursed, and reared more exotic animals and birds than any other living man."
He pursed his lips. "Not to mention the fortune you pocket from those tuppenny rides—"
The nerve! "Aren't I the one who helps the kiddies up the ladder, and leads Jumbo round the Gardens, and makes sure they don't topple off?" (By rights the cash should be half yours, lad, but what use would it be to you? You like to mouth the coins with your trunk and slip them into my pocket.)
The superintendent plucked at his beard. "Be that as it may, it's inequitable; bad for morale. You're all charm when it earns you tips, Scott, but flagrantly rude to your superiors in this Society, and as for your fellow keepers, they're nervous of saying a word to you these days."
That crew of ignorami!
"I have plenty of conversation," I told him, "but I save it for those as appreciate it."
"They call you a tyrant."
Well, I laughed. After all, I'm the fifteenth child of seventeen, no silver spoons in my infant mouth, a humble son of toil who's made good in a precarious profession, and I need apologize to nobody. We don't mind the piddling tiddlers of this world, do we, boy? We just avert our gaze.
There's a crate sitting outside on the grass this morning. Pitch-pine planking, girded with iron, on a kind of trolley with wheels. Gives me a funny feeling. It's twelve feet high, as near as I can guess; that's just half a foot more than you. Nobody's said a word to me about it. Best to mind my own business, I suppose. This place—there's too much gossip and interference already.
It'll be time to stretch a leg soon, boy. The kiddies will be lined up outside in their dozens. They missed you yesterday, when it was raining. Here, kneel down and we'll get your howdah on. Yes, yes, I'll remember to put a double fold of blanket under the corner where it was rubbing. Aren't your toenails looking pearly after that scrub I gave them?
There's two men out there by the crate now, setting up some kind of ramp. I don't like the looks of this at all. If this is what I think it is, it's too blooming much—
I'm off to the superintendent's office, none of this Please make an appointment. Here's a sack of oats to be getting on with. Oh, don't take on, hush your bellowing, I'll be back before you miss me.
Well, Jumbo, I could bloody spit! Pardon my French, but there are moments in a man's life on this miserable earth—
And to think, the superintendent didn't give me so much as a word of warning. Just fancy, after all these years of working at the Society together—after the perils he and I have run, sawing off that rhinoceros's deformed horn and whatnot—it makes me shudder, the perfidiousness of it. "I'll thank you," says I, "to tell me what's afoot in the matter of my elephant."
"Yours, Scott?" says he with a curl of the lip.
"Figure of speech," says I. "As keeper here thirty-one years, man and boy, I take a natural interest in all property of the Society."
He was all stuff and bluster, I'd got him on the wrong foot. "Since you inquire," says he, "I must inform you that Jumbo is now the property of another party."
Didn't I stare! "Which other party?"
His beard began to tremble. "Mr. P. T. Barnum."
"The Yankee showman?"
He couldn't deny it. Then wasn't there a row, not half. My dear boy, I can hardly get the words out, but he's only been and gone and sold you to the circus!
It's a shocking smirch on the good name of the London Zoological Society, that's what I say. Such sneaking, double-dealing treachery behind closed doors. In the best interests of the British public, my hat! Two thousand pounds, that's the price the superintendent put on you, though it's not as if they need the funds, and who's the chief draw but the Children's Pal, the Beloved Pachydermic Behemoth, as the papers call you? Why, you may be the most magnificent elephant the world has ever seen, due to falling so fortuitously young into my hands as a crusty little stray, to be nursed back from the edge of the grave and fed up proper. And who's to say how long your poor tribe will last, with ivory so fashionable? The special friend of our dear queen as well as generations of young Britons born and unborn, and yet the Society has flogged you off like horse meat, and all because of a few whiffs and tantrums!
Oh, Jumbo. You might just settle down now. Your feelings do you credit and all that, but there's no good in such displays. You must be a brave boy. You've got through worse before, haven't you? When the traders gunned down your whole kin in front of you—
Hush now, my mouth, I shouldn't bring up painful recollections. Going into exile in America can't be half as bad, that's all I mean. Worse things happen. Come to think of it, if I hadn't rescued you from that wretched Jardin des Plantes, you'd have got eaten by hungry Frogs during the Siege of Seventy-one! So best to put a brave face on.
I just hope you don't get seasick. I reminded the superintendent you'd need two hundred pounds of hay a day on the voyage to New York, not to speak of sweet biscuits, potatoes, loaves, figs, and onions, your favorite.…You'll be joining the Greatest Show on Earth, I suppose that has a sort of ring to it, if a vulgar one. (The superintendent claims travel may calm your rages, or if it doesn't, then such a huge circus will have "facilities for seclusion," though I don't like the sound of that, not half.) No tricks to learn, I made sure of that much: you'll be announced as "The Most Enormous Land Animal in Captivity" and walk round the ring, that's all. I was worried you'd have to tramp across the whole United States, but you'll tour in your own comfy railway carriage, fancy that! The old millionaire's got twenty other elephants, but you'll be the king. Oh, and rats, I told him to pass on word that you're tormented by the sight of a rat ever since they ate half your feet when you were a nipper.
Of course you'll miss England, and giving the kiddies rides, that's only to be expected. And doing headstands in the Pool, wandering down the Parrot Walk, the Carnivora Terrace, all the old sights. You'll find those American winters a trial to your spirits, I shouldn't wonder. And I expect once in a while you'll spare a thought for your old pa—
When you came to London, a filthy baby no taller than me, you used to wake screaming at night and sucking your trunk for comfort, and I'd give you a cuddle and you'd start to leak behind the ears…
Pardon me, boy, I'm overcome.
Today's the evil day, Jumbo, I believe you know it. You're all a-shiver, and your trunk hovers in front of my face as if to take me in. It's like some tree turned hairy snake, puffing warm wet air on me. There, there. Have a bit of gingerbread. Let me give your leg a good hard pat. Will I blow into your trunk, give your tongue a last little rub?
Come along, bad form to keep anyone waiting, I suppose, even a jumped-up Yankee animal handler like this "Elephant Bill" Newman. (Oh, those little watery eyes of yours, lashes like a ballet dancer—I can hardly look you in the face.) That's a boy; down this passage to the left; I know it's not the usual way, but a change is as good as a rest, don't they say? This way, now. Up the little ramp and into the crate you go. Plenty of room in there, if you put your head down. Go on.
Ah, now, let's have no nonsense. Into your crate this minute. What good will it do to plunge and bellow? No, stop it, don't lie down. Up, boy, up. Bad boy. Jumbo!
You're all right, don't take on so. You're back in your quarters for the moment; it's getting dark out. Such a to-do! They're only chains. I know you dislike the weight of them, but they're temporary. No, I can't take them off tonight or this Elephant Bill will raise a stink. He says we must try you again first thing tomorrow. The chains are for securing you inside the crate, till the crane hoists you on board the steamer. No, calm down, boy. Enough of that roaring. Drink your scotch. Oi! Pick up my bowler and give it back. Thank you.
The Yankee, Elephant Bill, has some cheek. He began by informing me that Barnum's agents tried to secure the captured King of the Zulus for exhibition, and then the cottage where Shakespeare was born; you're only their third choice of British treasures. Well, I bristled, you can imagine.
When you wouldn't walk into the crate no matter how we urged and pushed, even after he took the whip to your poor saggy posterior—when I'd led you round the corner and tried again half a dozen times—he rolled his eyes, said it was clear as day you'd been spoiled.
"Spoiled?" I repeated.
"Made half pet, half human," says the American, "by all these treats and pattings and chit-chat. Is it true what the other fellows say, Scott, that you share a bottle of whiskey with the beast every night, and caterwaul like sweethearts, curled up together in his stall?"
Well, I didn't want to dignify that kind of impertinence with a reply. But then I thought of how you whine like a naughty child if I don't come back from the pub by bedtime, and a dreadful thought occurred to me. "Elephants are family-minded creatures, you must know that much," I told him. "I hope you don't mean to leave Jumbo alone at night? He only sleeps two or three hours, on and off; he'll need company when he wakes."
A snort from the Yank. "I don't bed down with nobody but human females."
Which shows the coarseness of the man.
Settle down, Jumbo, it's only three in the morning. No, I can't sleep neither. I haven't had a decent kip since that blooming crate arrived. Don't those new violet-bottomed mandrills make an awful racket?
Over seven thousand visitors counted at the turnstile today. All because of you, Jumbo. Your sale's been in the papers; you'd hardly credit what a fuss it's making. Heartbroken letters from kiddies, denunciations of the trustees, offers to raise a subscription to ransom you back. It's said the Prince of Wales has voiced his objections, and Mr. Ruskin, and some Fellows of the Society are going to court to prove the sale illegal!
I wish you could read some of the letters you're getting every day now, from grown-ups as well as kiddies. Money enclosed, and gingerbread, not to mention cigars. (I ate the couple of dozen oysters, as I knew you wouldn't fancy them.) A bun stuck with pins; that's some sot's idea of a joke. And look at this huge floral wreath for you to wear, with a banner that says A TROPHY OF TRIUMPH OVER THE AMERICAN SLAVERS. I've had letters myself, some offering me bribes to "do something to prevent this," others calling me a Judas. If they only knew the mortifications of my position!
Oh, dear, I did think today's attempt would have gone better. It was my own idea that since you'd taken against the very sight of the crate, it should be removed from view. I told this Elephant Bill I'd lead you through the streets, the full six miles, and surely by the time you reached the docks, you'd be glad to go into your crate for a rest.
But you saw right through me, didn't you, artful dodger? No, no tongue massage for you tonight, Badness! You somehow knew this wasn't an ordinary stroll. Not an inch beyond the gates of the Gardens but you dropped to your knees. Playing to the crowd, rather, I thought, and how they whooped at the sight of you on all fours like some plucky martyr for the British cause. The public's gone berserk over your sit-down strike, you wouldn't believe the papers.
I almost lost my temper with you today at the gates, boy, when you wouldn't get up for me, and yet I couldn't help but feel a sort of pride to see you put up such a good fight.
That Yank is a nasty piece of work. When I pointed out that it might prove impossible to force you onto that ship, he muttered about putting you on low rations to damp your spirit, or even bull hooks to the ears and hot irons.
"I'll have you know, we don't stand for that kind of barbarism in this country," I told him, and he grinned and said the English were more squeamish about beating their animals than their children. He showed me a gun he carries and drawled something about getting you to New York dead or alive.
The lout was just trying to put the wind up me, of course. Primitive tactics. "Jumbo won't be of much use to your employer if he's in the former state," says I coldly.
Elephant Bill shrugged, and said he didn't know about that, Barnum could always stuff your hide and tour it as "The Conquered Briton."
That left me speechless.
Will we take a stroll round the Gardens this morning before the gates open? Over eighteen thousand visitors yesterday, and as many expected today, to catch what might be a last glimpse of you. Such queues for the rides! We could charge a guinea apiece if we chose, not that we would.
Let's you and me go and take a look at your crate. It's nothing to be afraid of, idiot boy; only a big box. Look, some fresh writing since yesterday: Jumbo don't go, that's kind. More flowers. Dollies, books, even. See that woman on her knees outside the gates? A lunatic, but the civil kind. She's handing out leaflets and praying for divine intervention to stop your departure.
But the thing is, lad, you're going to have to go sooner or later. You know that, don't you? There comes a time in every man's life when he must knuckle down and do the necessary. The judge has ruled your sale was legal. Barnum's told the Daily Telegraph he won't reconsider, not for a hundred thousand pounds. So the cruel fact is that our days together are numbered. Why not step on into your crate now, this very minute, get the wrench of parting over, since it must come to that in the end? Quick, now, as a favor to your sorrowful pa? Argh! Be that way, then; suit yourself, but don't blame me if the Yank comes at you with hooks and irons.
It's like trying to move a mountain, sometimes. Am I your master or your servant, that's what I want to know? It's a queer business.
That superintendent! To think I used to be amused by his little ways, almost fond of the old gent. Well, a colder fish I never met. Sits there in his dusty top hat and frock coat flecked with hippopotami's whatsits, tells me he's giving me a little holiday.
"A holiday?" I was taken aback, as you can imagine. I haven't taken a day off in years, you'd never stand for it.
He fixes me with his yellowing eyes and tells me that my temporary removal will allow Mr. Newman to accustom himself to the elephant's habits and tastes before departure.
"You know Jumbo's tastes already," I protest. "He can't stand that Yank. And if the fellow dares to try cruel measures, word will get out and you'll have the police down on you like a shot, spark off riots, I shouldn't wonder."
Which sends the superintendent off on a rant about how I've been conspicuously unwilling to get you into that crate.
"Oh, I like that," says I. "I've only loaded the unfortunate creature with shackles, pushed and roared to drive all six and a half tons of him into that blooming trap, so how is it my fault if he won't go?"
He fixes me with a stare. "Mr. Newman informs me that you must be engaging in sabotage, by giving the elephant secret signals. I have suspected as much on previous occasions, when I sent you perfectly competent assistants and Jumbo ran amok and knocked them down like ninepins."
"Secret signals?" I repeat, flabbergasted.
"All I know is that your hold over that beast is uncanny," says the superintendent between his teeth.
Uncanny? What's uncanny about it? Nothing more natural than that you'd have a certain regard for your pa, after he's seen to all your little wants day and night for the last seventeen years. Why does the lamb love Mary so, and all that rot.
Well, boy, at that moment I hear a little click in my head. It's like at the halls when a scene flies up and another one descends. I suddenly say—prepare yourself, lad—I say, "Then why don't you send a telegraph to this Barnum and tell him to take me too?"
The superintendent blinks.
"I'm offering my services as Jumbo's keeper," says I, "as long as his terms are liberal."
"What makes you imagine Mr. Barnum would hire such a stubborn devil as you, Scott?"
That threw me, but only for a second. "Because he must be a stubborn devil himself to have paid two thousand pounds for an elephant he can't get onto the ship."
A long stare, and the superintendent says, "I knew I was right. You have been thwarting me all along, using covert devices to keep Jumbo in the zoo."
I smirked, letting him believe it. Covert devices, my eye! To the impure, all things are impure. "Just you send that telegraph," I told him, "and you'll be soon rid of both of us."
Now, now, boy, let me explain. Doesn't it strike you that we've had enough of England? Whoa! No chucking your filth on the walls, that's a low habit. Hear me out. I know what a patriotic heart you've got—specially considering you come from the French Sudan, not our Empire at all—but how have you been repaid? Yes, the plain people dote on you, but it strikes me that you've grown out of these cramped quarters. If the Society's condemned you to transportation for smashing a few walls and shocking a few members' wives, why, then—let's up stakes and be off to pastures new, I say. You're not twenty-one yet, and I'm not fifty. We're self-made prodigies, come up from nothing and now headline news. We can make a fresh start in the land of the free and home of the brave. We'll be ten times as famous, and won't England feel the loss of us, won't Victoria weep!
I expect the superintendent will call me in right after lunch, the wonders of modern telegraphy being what they are. (Whatever Barnum offers me, I'll accept it. The Society can kiss my you-know-exactly-what-I-mean.) I'll come straight back here and lead you out to the crate. Now, whatever you do, Jumbo, don't make a liar of me. I don't have any secret signals or hidden powers; all I can think to do is to walk into the crate first, and turn, and open my arms and call you. Trust me, dearest boy, and I'll see you safe across the ocean, and stay by your side for better for worse, and take a father's and mother's care of you till the end. Are you with me?
Man and Boy
This story is based on almost daily reports in the Times of London between January and April 1882, as well as Superintendent Abraham Bartlett's hostile account in his Wild Animals in Captivity (1898), and the ghostwritten 1885 Autobiography of Matthew Scott, Jumbo's Keeper.
- "Time and again, Emma Donoghue writes books that are unlike anything I have ever seen before, and ASTRAY is no exception. There is such a deep and compassionate imagination at work in every story in this collection that ASTRAY feels almost like an act of clairvoyance."—-Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder
- "Emma Donoghue is one of the great literary ventriloquists of our time. Her imagination is kaleidoscopic. She steps borders and boundaries with great ease and style. In her hands the centuries dissolve, and then they crystallize back again into powerful words on the page."—Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
- "This book demonstrates once again that there's little she can't do well; indeed, the afterword is as moving as the stories....The short story can be a precious, self-enclosed form, but in Donoghue's bold hands, it crosses continents and centuries to claim kinship with many kinds of people.... Another exciting change of pace from the protean Donoghue."—Kirkus Reviews
- "...Masterful.... Revolutionary-era New Jersey, Civil War-era Texas, the gold rush Yukon, and many other settings come to life in this wonderfully imaginative, transporting collection."—Kristine Huntley, Booklist (Starred Review)
- "Donoghue applies her talents for characterization and depth of feeling over and over again as she documents restless wanderers and lost souls across four generations, each in a world as strange and real as the last."—Emily Temple, Flavorpill
- "Donoghue's affinity for yesteryear's untold tales is charming, and her talent for dialect is hard to overstate, which is why it's the first-person stories in ASTRAY that shine brightest....Each and every one of Donoghue's characters leaves an impression."—Time
- "Donoghue establishes a distinct voice and person [and] the stories are vivid, curious, and honest..."—Publishers Weekly
- "[The] tales...feel like discoveries, stories that were waiting to be told."—Stephan Lee, Entertainment Weekly
- "This collection is filled with such acts of imaginative sympathy-each chiseling all that one can, from what Donoghue aptly describes as 'the shadowy mass of all that's been lost.'"—Mike Fischer, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
- "The stories are taut, vivid and memorable, and the collection reveals Donoghue's remarkable gift for placing herself in the minds of people who otherwise might be lost to history."—Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch
- "The stories are showcases for a wide range of speaking voices studded with period vernacular."—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
- "Fans of...Room will recognize the same imaginative flexibility and ventriloquism in ASTRAY, only multiplied and lightly patinated.... A refreshing break from the trend of linked collections; each story is entirely discrete, and strong enough to be read in isolation."—Holloway McCandless, Shelf Awareness
- "Haunting.... These seekers and their stories pull you in-and stir your heart."—People (4 stars)
- "Splendid.... "[An] original and compelling collection."—Mameve Medwed, The Boston Globe
- "From England, Canada and the United States, Donoghue has created a restless world of travelers, finders and seekers, as well as a book that is an interactive narrative hybrid, one that gets us lost in other lives, that probes our history, that reveals the artist behind the word and that ultimately shows us something fresh, unsettling and enduring about ourselves."—Caroline Leavitt, The San Francisco Chronicle
- "Sensitive and intuitive...moves fearlessly between centuries and between genders.... Donoghue displays a ventriloquist's uncanny ability to slip in and out of voices....[and she] reveals them all, in their place of exile, with gentle yet devastating truth."—Brooke Allen, The New York Times Book Review
- "Donoghue is...something of a literary archaeologist, speaking in voices that have been lost.... Donoghue's empathic imagination is remarkable...so convincing that the reader feels these stories could be actual historical narratives."—Patricia Hagen, Minneapolis Star Tribune
- "A rich roster of tales [and] a real adventure in reading.... Donoghue's gift for storytelling is remarkable...."—Sandy Leonard, Lambda Literary
- "Donoghue is gifted at imagining narrators from all walks of life.... Anyone who appreciates a well-told tale will enjoy these 14 short stories. It's perfect for the bedside table or the quiet commute-rich tales by a writer near the top of her game."—Rob Merrill, Associated Press
- "Gentle yet devastating..."—The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)
- "Donoghue's ASTRAY masters the long reach of short tales.... What is most impressive about these stories is her ability to plumb historical footnotes for timeless emotional resonance and reanimate 'real people who left traces in the historical record.'"—Heller McAlpin, The Washington Post
- "[An] intriguing new story collection...Change is inevitable for the migrant-and for us all. In ASTRAY, Donoghue makes us tremble at the idea and revel in its possibilities."—Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald
- "We were interested to see if [Donoghue's] third-person narration skills translated well into the oftentimes more complicated vernacular of adults hailing from different eras and different corners of the globe.... In our opinion, she succeeded."—The Huffington Post
- "Dazzling.... [A]ll the voices are so distinct, the plots so diverse, that the reading experience is a bit like nibbling from a long, strange, trippy literary buffet. Comedy, history, legal drama, political intrigue, adventure...all served up side by side in one volume. It's wonderful."—Maggie Galehouse, The Houston Chronicle
- "Reading ASTRAY is a bit like watching a magician create a wondrous illusion before you and then reveal a few enticing hints as to how she did it."—Tarra Gaines, Houston Cultural Map
- "A well-written collection of short stories that go back and forth between despair and hope."—Bobby Blanchard, The Daily Texan
- "Donoghue breathes life into stories that seem like nothing more than footnotes in the grand scheme of history, but are important reminders of all the little things we miss looking at the big picture."—Sharra Rosichan, The Tennessean
- "Her new and splendid collection...is all about breaking through barriers."—Boston Globe
- "These stories are striking for their range and freedom.... One senses cumulatively throughout this book the capacious curiosity of Emma Donoghue's mind, and the breadth of her knowledge.... Never dull, these stories illuminate worlds like a magic lantern....Donoghue's imagination can alight upon almost anything and revivify it."—Claire Messud, The New York Review of Books
- "ASTRAY is an exceptional uniting of history and imagination."—Jake Cline, The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
- "A beautifully rendered collection of hauntingly vivid short stories.... Redolent with historical details, Donoghue's tales are enthralling.... Each story is so complete that there's a sense of mourning as one comes to a close, but also a thrill as to what she will come up with next.... She could not have assembled a richer cast of characters. We sense Donoghue's compassion for all of them-even the least appealing ones like the ultra-judgmental Englishman who settles in Yarmouth or the Illinois counterfeiters who conspired to steal Abraham Lincoln's corpse. Gorgeously written and thoroughly engrossing, ASTRAY captures the uncertainty and complexity of settling into unknown turf. The voices of her characters reverberate in our heads, long after putting the book down."—Claudia Puig, USA Today (4 stars)
- "[Donoghue is] one of those rare literary alchemists who can deliver a story that is both sensationally suspenseful and richly satisfying in the artistry of its sentences and the depth and seriousness of its themes."—Ed Tarkington and Chapter16.org, Nashville Scene
- "Emma Donoghue's characters seem thoroughly unique and alive."—Tobias Carroll, Time Out New York
- "Illuminating.... [and] affecting..."—Eileen Weiner, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- "The characters in Emma Donoghue's solid collection ASTRAY are on the move and similarly are sure to move readers."—Natalie Danford, American Way
- "A strong collection.... Donoghue is first rate.... Real people can't go backward, but writers can, and Donoghue does so with great success."—Susan Balée, The Hudson Review
- "The author of Room displays her mastery at inventing the speech of the most unlikely characters in this story collection.... How do people sound? That's one of the primary concerns of a writer. Get that right, and everything follows. Donoghue gets it right, as anyone who's read Room would know.... Donoghue reads like she takes a dry eraser and deletes chunks of letters and words-there's something constantly missing, and parts of the world are a mystery. But isn't that how we think to ourselves, as Joyce demonstrated, skipping over the river of thoughts and refusing to bother explaining the obvious or the visual? With such ingenuity, Donoghue achieves the effect of creating magic and wonder in the real world. To follow Donoghue into the unknown is one of the most pleasurable experiences I can think of."—Jimmy So, The Daily Beast
- "Wildly informative and engaging.... Donoghue...throws the windows of the world open in fourteen stories of wanderlust, exploration, and possibilities promised by new and unknown lands.... By giving us true stories of wanderers and vagabonds in search of broader vistas, Donoghue has given narrative weight to both the journey and the destination. And in offering up history newly made into stories, Donoghue makes the journey of literary reinvention into its own reward."—Jessica Freeman-Slade, The Millions
- "In...ASTRAY...imagination becomes possibility.... Moving through the centuries with her short stories, Donoghue turns everyday situations and period-piece slice-of-life situations into something of which O. Henry and Paul Harvey would be proud. Indeed, some of these tales start with a little sleight of word, poking our emotions in one way, then slowly twisting them into another direction before giving us the real story. You never know where these tales will end, and that's a good thing."—Terri Schlichenmeyer, Washington Blade
- "A marvel of imagination, in which Donoghue utilizes items she's found over the years...to create unforgettable stories about change..."—Nina Sankovitch, The Huffington Post
- On Sale
- Oct 29, 2013
- Hachette Audio