Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, October 4, 2014

"Opa-Locka" by Laura Van den Berg (2012, from The Isle of Youth, a 2014 O. Henry Prize Story)

I was very happy to find a story by Laura Van den Berg, from her collection The Isle of Youth, included in The O Henry Prize Stories 2014 anthology.  "Opa Locka" is a story of a very sad dysfunctional family.   Set in a part of Miami a long way from the glitter and glamour of South Beach, it focuses on two sisters.  Their mother is on a six month around the world cruise, their father just disappeared long ago.  One of the sisters did six months in jail for breaking into and robbing houses. They have started a dectective agency.  When we meet them they are on a "stake out", trying to prove a man is cheating on his wife.  I felt like I was along for the ride.  The author does an excellant job making the dysfunctional family very real.  We listen to them talk about why their father deserted them. We wonder but never learn how the mother paid for the very expensive cruise. I don't want to tell to much of the plot. The author has shed light on a dark world.  This is a very good story and I look forward to reading more of her work.

From the author's web page

Laura van den Berg was raised in Florida and earned her M.F.A. at Emerson College. Her first collection of stories, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (Dzanc Books, 2009), was a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection. Her stories have appeared in Conjunctions, The Kenyon Review, American Short Fiction, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, One Story, and have been anthologized inThe Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and the Pushcart Prize XXIV. She is the recipient of scholarships and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, Ragdale, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.LauraReading

She has taught creative writing at Grub Street, Gettysburg College, as the 2009-2010 Emerging Writer Lecturer, the Gilman School, as the 2010-2011 Tickner Fellow, Goucher College, Johns Hopkins University, the Maryland Institute College of Art, George Washington University, and in the M.F.A. programs at Emerson College and Warren Wilson. She is the 2014-2015 Faculty Fellow in Fiction at Colby College.

Her second collection of stories, The Isle of Youth, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in November 2013. The Isle of Youth was named a “Best Book of 2013″ by over a dozen outlets, including NPR, The Boston Globe, and O, The Oprah Magazine, was a finalist for the Frank O’Connor Award, and received the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. Both Laura’s collections were longlisted for The Story Prize and shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.

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