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Ocean State

, 224 pages
July 2010



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Ocean State



The stories of Ocean State roll over the reader like a wave. Family pleasures, marriage, the essential moments and mysteries of a seemingly ordinary world that break into magical territory before we can brace ourselves—Jean McGarry puts us in life’s rough seas with what the New York Times has called a "deft, comic, and devastatingly precise" hand.

Jean McGarry teaches in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. Ocean State is her eighth book of fiction. Dream Date, Gallagher’s Travels, Home at Last, The Very Rich Hours, and Airs of Providence have also been published by Johns Hopkins. Her short stories have appeared in, among other publications, The New Yorker, The Yale Review, Boulevard, and The Southwest Review.

"McGarry's stories are psychological studies constructed around a moment of reckoning—a first date at the church social, a wedding day tomorrow, the last reveries of a dying man. She burrows deeply into the sensibilities of recognizable, ordinary people—our younger selves, sisters and brothers we could know, parents and adult children we have been or have observed."

"Exceptionally intense, intricately structured, and as arresting and consistently engaging as fractal art... the stories trace characters' sense of a double existence: the life inside family, defined and constrained by McGarry's meticulous details, and the boundless life of the spirit. Her literary progenitors range from Willa Cather to Virginia Woolf--but she brings a savage lyricism to her stories, a sense of rage contained perilously by wit and intelligence, that gives the stories a menacing aspect, like watching a man threatening suicide walk on a ledge."

"A gifted observer, records with fidelity the daily minutiae of life and introspection."

"Ms. McGarry's stories have the feel of paintings by Edward Hopper. Her characters are solitudinous and lonely, rarely funny, but they often carry with them, even in their defeat, a certain dignity. She is a writer who honors the human condition."

"McGarry's thickly layered prose, with its stunning emotional accuracies, is always just on the verge of exploding into dream or fantasy."

"At her best, McGarry illuminates our quirky, flawed selves and neighbors, and makes us nod even as we sigh."

"McGarry's prose is fresh, her plots unpredictable, and her dialogue shimmeringly wry... Reading McGarry's stories is to be surprised and delighted."

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