Author Archives: Kelsey Maki

About Kelsey Maki

writer and English professor

The Book of Lost Saints by Daniel Jose Older c. 2019 (325 pages—Imprint)

Alert: This summary contains spoilers. A tale told through a third-person limited omniscient narrator, who happens to be a ghost. Marisol, originally from Cuba, inhabits the mind and soul of her nephew, Ramon, an overweight DJ and hospital security guard. … Continue reading

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We, the Survivors by Tash Aw c. 2019 (326 pages—Forth Estate)

Set in Malaysia, this novel centers on a working-class man named Ah Hock. The frame of the narrative creates a sense of uncertainty and distance surrounding the story of Ah Hock as he is interviewed by a well-meaning journalist who’s … Continue reading

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“The Third Tower” by Deborah Eisenberg c. 2019 (pages 67-82 in The Best American Short Stories 2019)

According to Eisenberg, this is “a story set in the near future or a parallel present, about a girl—a young laborer—whose imagination, curiosity, vitality, and quality of experience are being purposefully reduced . . . That third tower might suggest, … Continue reading

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Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult c. 2016 (458 pages—Ballantine Books)

Alert: This summary contains spoilers. “Small Great Things” addresses fraught topics like privilege and prejudice in a lengthy novel that reads like a thriller. Its plot hinges on an impossible ethical dilemma: break the orders of an institution (disobey a … Continue reading

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“Natural Disasters” by Alexis Schaitkin c. 2019 (pages 271-289 in The Best American Short Stories 2019)

In this short story, a young woman and her husband move to Oklahoma, where the woman suffers from isolation and mental illness. After a dramatic encounter with a tornado, she realizes that her marriage will fail. This story destabilizes the … Continue reading

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“Audition” by Said Sayrafiezadeh c. 2019 (pages 255-270 in The Best American Short Stories 2019)

“Audition” centers on a young man who, seeking life-experience and legitimacy as an actor, gets high with a co-worker at his father’s construction site. Larger themes of isolation and economic inequality resonate in this cinematic short story.  Sentences Worth Studying … Continue reading

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The Overstory by Richard Powers c. 2018 (502 pages—Norton)

A sweeping, polyphonic story that follows the lives of eight central characters, all of whom have a connection to trees. The prose borders on poetry and the writing celebrates nature without being overwrought. The branching complexity and interconnectedness of trees … Continue reading

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“Creative Types” by Tom Bissell c. 2018 (pages 85-102 in Pushcart Prize XLII) originally published in The Paris Review

This short story centers on a married couple’s effort to reawaken passion lost to life changes (i.e., a baby) by having a three-way with an escort. Set in a single evening, Bissell artfully reveals people’s biases, complexities, and fixations through … Continue reading

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Friendswood by Rene Steinke c. 2014 (398 pages—Riverhead)

Set in small-town Texas, this novel chronicles the way in which different characters respond to a central environmental crisis. The lead protagonist is Lee, a mother who, after losing her daughter to cancer, embarks upon a lonely crusade against the … Continue reading

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“Zombie Sister” by Kristine Ong Muslim c. 2016 (pages 67-71 in Age of Blight)

Age of Blight is a short collection of dystopic slipstream stories. In “Zombie Sister” a dead girl returns to her family as a shell of her former self, unable to partake in any normal activities. Sentences Worth Studying “Every family … Continue reading

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