The Imposter

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The Imposter

A Selection of the Quality Paperback Book Club
Winner of the Wisconsin Library Association BANTA Award 
Includes stories anthologized in
New Stories from the South:  the Years' Best

(HarperCollins  1991 -  Terry Karten, Editor)
Jacket illustration:
Eric Fowler   


Description of Short Story Collection  

Read  "Piggly-Wiggly"

Publisher's Description

             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." 

Publishers Weekly: 
"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 characters."  

The Los Angeles Times  (Carolyn See)
"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."   


From the story "Piggy Wiggly" 

        My mother learned about my father's departure from a letter with a Montreal postmark:
                                                          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 hell.  


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go to The Reader E-mail page.  

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