Winner of the Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction
Delicate and assured, the stories in My Escapee illuminate unseen forces in women’s lives: the shameful thought, the stifled hope, the subterranean stresses of marriage, friendship, and family. Grappling with lost memories, escaped time, the longing to be loved, and the instinct for autonomy, the stories peer inside their characters’ minds to their benign delusions, their triumphs and defeats.
A girl taking a test for admittance to a selective school finds that what she loves most of all is the ordinary. A lonely young woman, sick of being sick, swaps places with her nurse. A college student deploys her more charming roommate to discover the secret rituals of an all-male club on campus. And in the title story, a woman in a nursing home receives mysterious missives from her longtime lover recalling fragments of their old life together.
"These stories are wonderful—stirringly imagined, daringly structured, and wise to the ways of the human heart. Corinna Vallianatos can make an entire soul come shining out of the smallest phrase, and she does so again and again, sentence after sentence, on every page of this collection."—Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Brief History of the Dead and The Illumination
"Corinna Vallianatos is a gangbuster talent. She suffuses scenes with the kind of radiant empathy one longs for in a story, and makes such sharp observations that she often startles the reader into laughter. Every sentence in My Escapee is taut and elastic and every story in this wonderful collection sings with both sadness and glee."—Lauren Groff, author of The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia
"My Escapee is a splendid collection of stories told with admirable compression and variety and humor and quirkiness. The characters are flawed yet appealing, the writer’s sensibility a joy to discover. Like a new-found friend, this writer’s voice made me feel less alone in the world."—Antonya Nelson, author of Bound: A Novel and Nothing Right: Short Stories
"With the spare, definitive strokes of Matisse’s late portraits, the stories in My Escapee hew precisely to the truth, while rendering a series of expressive and particular female lives. The characters are disoriented, vulnerable, at times dependent on others; they are also determined, defiant, passionate. One admires their self-awareness, one forgives them their imperfections, one feels keenly their isolation. The language is lucid, forceful, in turns unassuming and startling. Read together, these stories navigate an intimate landscape of fault lines, of grottoes of emotions, of stark passages and significant crossings. Vivid, whimsical, and restrained, they introduce a mature voice, an affecting and bracing debut."—Jhumpa Lahiri, Grace Paley Prize contest judge and author of Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake
"Vallianatos writes with insight, humor, and elegance."—Publishers Weekly
"Age and illness, infirmity and death, love and betrayal, motherhood and youthful indecision--Vallianatos sculpts this ordinary stuff of life into stories that make common human frailties beautiful."—Concord Monitor
"Vallianatos's ten tales skillfully explore the emotional dimensions of the gap between identity and self-awareness."—Booklist
"Bracing . . . clear, vivid, and affecting. Vallianatos's debut is rich with precisely rendered moments of painful recognition, resignation, or passionate defiance."—Boston Globe
"[This] taut, delicate collection is full of swift insights into expectation. . . . In the vivid lives of Vallianatos's characters, as in our own, hope and aim are often misaligned."—New York Times Book Review