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“This is a fine portrait of privileged lives, in all their mundanity and weirdness.”—Publishers Weekly

“Elissa Minor Rust’s understanding of people is crystal clear and the prose is as lucid as the lake. This is a rich book.”—Rob Carlson, author of The Hotel Eden

From The New York Times: Set in the swanky Portland suburb of Lake Oswego, Ore., the 12 stories in Rust’s debut collection evoke a world of material privilege and emotional bankruptcy. Each story begins with a fairly innocuous item taken from the local newspaper’s police blotter: a dead bird found in a mailbox, a naked man running in the park, a vicious cat, an “unknown hairy thing” stuffed in a garbage can. These cryptic, sometimes bizarre little items provide a fitting point of departure for Rust’s fertile imagination. Forget about borrowing a cup of sugar from the neighbors; ever wonder what might happen if an infertile couple asked for some sperm? If a woman walked out on her husband and their 2-year-old daughter but took the dog? Eating disorders, divorce, cancer, class envy, postpartum depression, suburban anomie, Volvos with seat warmers: they’re all here in lovely, privileged, unsettling Lake Oswego.

The Prisoner Pear: Stories From the Lake

Ohio University/Swallow Press

The twelve stories in The Prisoner Pear: Stories from the Lake take place in an affluent suburb of Portland, Oregon, but they could be taken from any number of similar enclaves across the United States. These stories infuse stark reality with occasional hints of magical realism to explore what the American dream means to twenty-first-century suburbanites. In a city where the homecoming queen still makes the front page of the weekly newspaper, ducks caught in storm drains and stolen campaign signs make up the bulk of the paper’s crime reports. The community’s hidden complexities, however, rival those of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio.

Each of the stories begins with an entry from the newspaper’s police blotter. Elissa Minor Rust fills in the background to these small, odd events-a headless parakeet found in a mailbox, a nude jogger, an alarmingly deathlike discarded teddy bear. Her stories, both humorous and disturbing, probe beneath the clear, hard surface of a community into the murky depths beneath.

The lake at the center of town is a constant in the lives of this town’s people, and it reappears throughout the book as a symbol of wealth and power, of love and loss. The Prisoner Pear offers a rare look inside the heart of suburban America. Reading these stories is, as one character observes, “like seeing the town from the inside out, as if the lake was its heart and the rest merely its bones and skin.”


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