Astray, a 5-Star Read {Review and Giveaway}

by Dawn


In the afterword of her new collection of short stories Astray, Emma Donoghue examines the title concept in theory and what it means for human stories. In each of the fourteen tales presented in this book, the characters are facing a physical or emotional straying of some sort, and Donoghue masterfully portrays each snippet of time through gripping and intense storytelling.

History and fictionalization meet in this collection, as the stories all have basis in real-life events, though the level of dramatization may differ from story to story. From a Puritan village in 1600s Cape Cod to a Revolutionary War encampment, from mid-1800s London to turn of the 20th century New York City, the settings vary, but the characters all share common feelings of displacement, or longing for a completeness that they imagine elsewhere.

Donoghue provides snapshots of these characters’ lives, creating in a small number of pages, emotion and detail heavy narratives. Each character has a distinct and appropriate voice for his or her time period, with vernacular and cultural references immediately placing the story in time. Some selections are more difficult to read than others, admittedly, though they all tackle complex subjects such as slavery, prostitution, sexual mores, and the demonstration of power.

In The Hunt, the story of a fictional young German soldier forced into service and shipped over to defend British sovereignty during the Revolutionary War is heartbreaking and terrifying. At the cusp of adolescence, this child is dropped into an unknown world against his will, and all he can think about is his warm bed and loving mother back at home. Set during a documented time in 1776 when “British and German troops in New Jersey and Staten Island started systematically attacking the female population,” this story examines the horror from the perspective of a distraught boy who has no choice but to obey his commander or face his own death.

Though not all the stories in Astray are as blatantly haunting, they do all touch upon aspects of humanity that inspire reflection. Days after reading this collection, I continue to have visions of these characters at random times during the day, imagining them as representatives for times in history that are often unimaginable to my contemporary world brain. For its intensity and brilliant writing, I am happy to give Astray a 5 Star Reads designation, and I look forward to reading about others’ perspectives on this moving collection of short stories.

We’re happy to offer a giveaway of two copies of this gripping book. Just leave a comment to be entered, U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only, please. We’ll announce our winners here on November 21. This giveaway is now closed.

Here are this week’s winners:

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Email Author    |    Website About Dawn

When she's not reviewing books, Dawn (and her online alter ego, morninglight mama) can be found blogging at my thoughts exactly and contributing to The DC Moms.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michelle November 7, 2012 at 7:30 am

I would love to be entered. I don’t think I have read a book of short stories since college and this one sounds wonderful.


2 Benita November 7, 2012 at 10:40 am

I love short stories. Thanks for the opportunity.



3 ellie November 7, 2012 at 10:42 am

This book would be treasured. Short stories are great.


4 Staci A November 7, 2012 at 11:21 am

It sounds like an interesting collection of stories!


5 Colleen Turner November 7, 2012 at 2:26 pm

This collection sounds wonderful! Thanks for the chance to win a copy!


6 Stephanie November 7, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Interesting book. I’d love a copy! Thanks :)
Stephanie recently posted..A Proud SisterMy Profile


7 Melissa Mc November 8, 2012 at 12:11 am

She was on NPR last week and gave a great interview. I’m not s short story fan…but would love to read the book!
Melissa Mc recently posted..Book Review — The Graveyard BookMy Profile


8 Kirsten November 8, 2012 at 8:53 am

Read her novel ROOM and look forward to this book, which seems to be very different. Love short stories and it’s been a while since I’ve read a good collection of them. Thanks for the review, Dawn.


9 Linda Kish November 8, 2012 at 11:15 pm

I would love to win a copy of this book.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com


10 Beth C November 11, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Looks interesting – sounds like a nice collection.


11 Barb: 1SentenceDiary November 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Heard about this on NPR. Sounds so interesting!


12 Jessica T November 16, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Love a good book!


13 Anita Yancey November 18, 2012 at 10:23 am

I really enjoy reading short stories and this book sounds really good. Please enter me. Thanks!


14 Pamela Northrup November 20, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Well, with only limited reading time thanks to the toddler, maybe short stories will be something I can handle. :D


15 Dara November 20, 2012 at 9:50 pm

sounds like a good read/s to me!


16 Sharon November 20, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Ohhhhh Emma Donoghue, you can’t go wrong. I really hope to win!! Thanks for a wonderful giveaway!


17 Bridget O'Neill November 21, 2012 at 2:27 am

I loved Room, and I’m sure I’ll love this one too!


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