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The story collection Miracle Boy and Other Stories contains fourteen works of short fiction written over the last fifteen years – and published in some of America’s top literary magazines and anthologies – by one of West Virginia’s most established and well-recognized writers of short fiction. The stories, all set in the author’s native Appalachia, concern themselves with the lives of boys and men, all of them in some manner miraculous: from a boy who loses his feet and gains them again to a hunting dog that learns to talk. Though many of the stories contain supernatural or surreal elements, all are grounded in the realities of life in the Appalachian highlands. These are rough-and-tumble stories about a hardscrabble mountain landscape, and they modulate between love and violence, between beauty and abject terror.
‘Benedict evokes the world of hard-bitten Southern men who live in shabby weatherbeaten houses or rickety trailers, who work in tire factories or slaughterhouses, who are slow to speak but quick to explode in anger, and whose women are tangential figures.’ —Publishers Weekly
‘What Beattie did for urbanites, Cheever and Updike for suburbanites, a younger generation Omstead, Abbott, Cullen, and now Benedict is doing for the rural population. Only 22 and recipient of the 1986 Nelson Algren Award, Benedict has published stories in the Chicago Tribune and Ontario Review. His world is regional, tough, raw, male; these nine stories deal with the mountain men, sheep farmers, and hog raisers of rural West Virginia.’ —Library Journal
‘An often heart-stopping literary performance.’ —The New York Times
‘Benedict's first collection of stories since his auspicious if uneven debut (Town Smokes, 1987) is a far more accomplished work, establishing him among the best young southern writers – full of passion and mature enough to keep it under control. Benedict searches out the moral dimension in the hardscrabble lives of rednecks and country people, and transcends the folksy bromides they espouse. He discerns the confusion and ambiguities in their seemingly uncomplicated lives.’ —Kirkus Reviews
‘In this taut, muscular thriller set in contemporary rural West Virginia, short-story writer Benedict (The Wrecking Yard) hurtles the reader toward a chillingly apocalyptic climax replete with high-tech weaponry and old-fashioned treachery. Peopled with an assortment of New South grotesques, the story centers on Goody, a young bare-fisted fighter new to the neighborhood, and Tannhauser, a deranged, 12-fingered backwoods drug lord with a penchant for sadism.’ —Publishers Weekly
‘In this first novel, Benedict continues his exploration of rural West Virginia life begun in his two short story collections, The Wrecking Yard and Town Smokes. As in the short stories, the writing here is strong and vivid. The wide cast of characters includes Goody (a boxer), Dwight (a tourist guide), drug enforcement agents, marijuana growers, gunrunners, illegal immigrants, and a variety of lost and corrupt souls. They live and die in an atmosphere of bleakness and despair, with violence and brutality as constant companions.’ —Library Journal
‘Benedict, who lives in West Virginia, is the author of two highly regarded short story collections, Town Smokes and The Wrecking Yard. In this, his first novel, individual chapters have the compression of short stories, but he fails to maintain a novel-length narrative flow, and none of his characters sustain interest for the book's 300-plus pages. Still, his language is vivid and assured, his dialogue is skillfully written and convincing, and he creates an atmosphere of unsettling strangeness.’ —Booklist
‘The first novel by storywriter Benedict (Town Smokes, 1987; The Wrecking Yard, 1992) barely resembles his measured and lyrical short fiction. Benedict owes more here to action movies than to any literary source: the levels of violence and the plot improbabilities have the same nihilistic drive of a Peckinpah film. In Benedict's West Virginia, the smell of death pervades the air, and wild dogs and boars rule the uninhabited forest. Government land, long abandoned, now serves the local drug lords, who import South American laborers to harvest their best cash crop: marijuana. Into this corrupt mountain community stumbles Goody, a good but troubled bare-fisted boxer who once killed a man in a dirty match.’ —Kirkus Reviews
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