“In story after story, we find ourselves in the hands of a writer who writes solid, elegant sentences, and who takes us into the lives of his characters to reveal the way the extraordinary is so often realized in the seemingly ordinary. Take your time and savor this beautifully written and often surprising collection of stories.” —Silas House, author of Southernmost
EastOver Press is proud to announce the publication of The Act of Contrition & Other Stories, a collection of short fiction by award-winning writer Joseph Bathanti.
The Act of Contrition, a series of linked stories and one novella, continues the adventures of Fritz Sweeney and his outrageously memorable parents, Travis and Rita, that began in Bathanti’s earlier award-winning volume of stories, The High Heart.
Spanning the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies, in an Italian American working class neighborhood in Pittsburgh, The Act of Contrition celebrates and complicates the operatic glories and tragedies of an offbeat family that fashions from the vault of explosive ancestral secrets its own incendiary mythology.
These fourteen unforgettable stories—a mélange of incantatory magical realism and clear-eyed documentary precision (in the vein of Raymond Carver)—are narrated by Fritz in a prophetic voice that issues at once from the very aggregate of steel town Pittsburgh and his deep yearning to escape it.
“More than just about any other writer I can think of, Joseph Bathanti’s work has always felt like life to me. Perhaps it resonates with my own life – regional identity, blue collar background – or perhaps it resonates with the many mysteries of the lives of others that I often find myself wondering about. Bathanti does what the best realists do: he brings beauty to the terror of the mundane, mystery to the overlooked desperation of people we might never meet in real life but will know intimately because we have met them in Bathanti’s fiction. The stories in this collection continue a long career that has found Bathanti plumbing the depths of the human heart and untangling mystery all the while.” —Wiley Cash, author of When Ghosts Come Home
“Joseph Bathanti’s The Act of Contrition & Other Stories is a beautiful book of richly observed realism, passionate and bold and subtle and shocking, that recreates in rich detail a way of life, a culture, a community, and the deepest struggles of its wonderfully evoked characters.” —Phil Klay, author of Redeployment
“Joseph Bathani’s stories thrilled and enchanted me. His capacity to create truly memorable characters, deeply rooted in time and place—in this case Pittsburgh in the fifties, sixties, and seventies—is fueled by a fiercely unsentimental love that imbues every story. His writing, line by line, is consistently brilliant, without ever losing touch with the highly textured Italian and Irish blue-collar worlds where his characters struggle. Bathanti has given us stories that never shy away from life’s heartbreaks, while also offering us the protection of his compassionate insights, his humor, and the spirit of love that shines so vividly throughout this book.” —Jane McCafferty, author of Director of the World & Other Stories
Bathanti is the former Poet Laureate of North Carolina (2012-14) and recipient of the North Carolina Award in Literature. He is the author of nineteen books, including award-winning novels, volumes of poetry, a short story collection, and memoir. Bathanti is Professor of English & McFarlane Family Distinguished Professor of Interdisciplinary Education at Appalachian State University. He served as the 2016 Charles George VA Medical Center Writer-in-Residence in Asheville, North Carolina, and is the co-founder of the Medical Center’s Creative Writing Program. He also teaches in Carlow University’s low residency MFA Program in Creative Writing in Pittsburgh, where he was born and raised.
The Act of Contrition & Other Stories ▪ Joseph Bathanti ▪ Released July 25, 2023
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