Babylon and Other Stories

ISBN: 0375415254
ISBN 13: 9780375415258
By: Alix Ohlin

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About this book

Following The Missing Person, her highly praised debut—“A seriously entertaining and probing novel,” wrote The Washington Post Book World—Alix Ohlin gives us a collection of stories that demonstrates her impressive range.In their various locales, from Montreal (where a prosthetic leg casts a furious spell on its beholders) to the Southwest (where a Soviet-era exchange student changes a family’s dynamic forever), the characters in Babylon are coming to terms with life’s epiphanies, for good or ill. They range from the very young who, confronted with their parents’ limitations, discover their own resolve, to those facing middle age and its particular indignities, no less determined to assert themselves and shape their destinies. A tenacious eight-year-old practices piano on paper keys; an expectant mother, settling into an idyllic farmhouse, discovers the tragic story of its previous, rightful inhabitants; and a fictional haunted hospital becomes an obsession for a ghostwriter grappling with her empty nest.         In stories at once clear-eyed and compassionate, brimming with the wit, humor, and warmth for which she has been widely acclaimed, Alix Ohlin gives us unforgettable characters enmeshed in situations both familiar and absurd—all vitally engaged in the transfigurations that delineate any coming of age.In short, a striking and assured collection from an exceptionally gifted writer.

Reader's Thoughts


I hate to say this being an MFA candidate myself, but Ohlin's book definitely reads like a young writer, and her stories fall into a pretty predictable pattern - wham bam opening, dragging middle, and sudden poignant ending. Which is also exactly what I do...Still, when she's good, she's great.


First off, awesome cover.Second: I have mixed feelings about this collection. While I was reading them, I occasionally thought "this is like In the Forest of Forgetting", which is a high compliment for me. But then, the "suburbia is ugly underneath" line got repetitive, and the flashes of the fantastic (though there is no overt fantasy in this book) got fewer and farther between. It seems a lot of the contemporary short stories I've read have the same ethereal, esoteric tone.Favorites: "A Theory of Entropy", "Land of the Midnight Sun". Made me want to sit down and write short stories, one after another, each different and beautiful, like china plates or gelato flavors.


Alix's short stories of suburban misery are fantastic! One has even appeared in the Best American Short Stories series.


Well written, but truthfully nothing memorable. Feels like a collection of college writing assignments. No connection for me.But thought it was better than Signs and Wonders.


I read several stories from the book. While perceptive and concise, my interest was not held. The stories just weren't compelling enough for me.


I like her writing, but I don't like short stories as a genre as much. They don't allow you to get to know a character, so they're better as self-contained themes. Or so it seems to me.

noisy penguin

I found this on one of the giveaway shelves at my last job. The front cover quote makes a comparison to Lorrie Moore, so I figured I'd check it out. It's a good book of stories, but (like with the last book I grabbed that had Lorrie Moore comparisons), it didn't remind me of Lorrie Moore at all. Most of the stories left me wanting more, and some of them ended abruptly and with no explanation of why the characters did what they did, which drove me a little crazy. But overall it was good.

Lauren Lastrapes

One of those you try to put down in between stories and can't.


Absolute perfection, this master-storyteller.

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