A Selection of the Quality
Paperback Book Club
Winner of the Wisconsin
Library Association BANTA Award
New Stories from the South: the Years' Best
1991 - Terry Karten, Editor)
Published to universal critical acclaim, The Imposter is
about two Louisiana cousins, Netta Henry and Stanley Wilkes, reared by
overburdened families in the rural Midwest and South. In the
opening story, "Joyriding," Stanley and Netta hijack a Wall
Street lawyer though an act of deception. The ensuing stories --
each containing at least one kind of imposter, explore aspects of these
spirited characters' pasts that made them likely candidates for a life
of crime. Both hilarious and heartbreaking, these stories are a
dazzling demonstration of Paula Sharp's technical virtuosity, ribald
southern humor, and complete mastery of short fiction.
The Chicago Tribune:
"Each of these nine stories is a
small masterpiece; together, they create a tantalizing universe.
As we witness this Southern Family's harsh uprooting, softened by
gestures of loyalty and courage, we want to read more."
"Sharp is a writer with an acute ear
for resonant dialogue and what it reveals about motivation and
behavior...As the [characters'] personal histories unfold, the family's
romance with crime and deception is revealed in multifaceted and
frequently hilarious detail. Each character, from Netta's
eccentric pig-breeder lover ("Piggly Wiggly) to Netta's mother's
series of peculiar boyfriends ("The Imposter," among others),
is as secretive and cunning as the last...[T]hese characters evoke a
unique world populated by extraordinary and unforgettably defined
The Los Angeles Times
"These wonderful stories are about
all of us, and they question whether American family life, ever, at any
time, had a chance in hell."
New York Newsday (Dan Cryer):
"This young writer combines the easy
comic grace of Anne Tyler with the quirky sassiness of Ellen Gilchrist
...The Imposter is free-spirited, charged with gusto and humor
and an awareness of life's wrong turns and unexpected mishaps."
The New York Times Book Review:
"These stories are wonderfully
observant, full of sharp detail and good prose."
the story "Piggy Wiggly"
My mother learned about my father's departure from a letter with a
April 15, 1973
"My darling wife --
Because of circumstances over which I have no power, I have decided to relinquish my career and leave
Ripon, and will not be returning. I know you have realized for
some time how unbearable things are between us. There are two terrible
mistakes in life. The first is to fall passionately in love with someone whom
you learn, eventually, that you do not like. The second is to stay with
someone whom you like and respect, but whom you cannot love.
Keep this in mind in the months ahead--I want you to make good choices
and to someday feel the joyousness that I do now. In my own
experience, I believe that the second mistake is worse--but both are truly
hellish. I hold you fondly in my thoughts."
My mother read and
reread this letter: I know that the sentences scrambled and
unscrambled themselves nonsensically before her eyes. That she
asked herself, which was she: a woman he loved but did not like,
or liked but did not love?
There did not seem to be any men in Ripon,
Wisconsin, through whom my mother could discover the anguish of either
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