Esther Stories

Esther Stories

Peter Orner explores the impact of life’s essential moments, those brief but far-reaching occasions that haunt his characters. The discovery of a crime, a theatrical performance in a small town, or the recollection of a cruel wartime decision are equally affecting in Orner’s vivid scenarios. Esther Stories is divided into four distinct parts, each with its own momentum. The first half of the book concerns the lives of unrelated strangers, and the second introduces two Jewish families, one on the East Coast, the other in the Midwest.
These stories cover considerable geographic ground — from Nova Scotia to Mississippi, from Fall River, Massachusetts, to Chicago — but the real territory is emotional. As the narrator of the title story tries to piece together his late aunt Esther’s life from the fragments of stories told about her, he remembers what she told him in a dark kitchen when he was a child: “You pay for everything. When you think you’re getting something for free — remember this — you’ll pay later.” All thirty-two wide-ranging pieces — funny or sorrowful, urban or rural, simple or innovative — are welcome additions to the art of the story.

Title:Esther Stories
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780618128730
Format Type:

    Esther Stories Reviews

  • Tara

    This collection has been reissued with a foreword by Marilynne Robinson. I'm not sure it needed one, the stories and depth of the characters speak for themselves. Orner is that rare writer who can do ...

  • Anna

    I bought this book at the 50 cents sale in the library. Of interest, there is an inscription inside: "Brenda & Ken, hope you enjoy these short stories. The author is Ted's step-brother. Always, Anne &...

  • David

    Re-reading ESTHER STORIES (2001) more than a decade after its original publication, I continue to be astonished by the tender worldliness, quiet passion, understated wisdom, and luminous poetry of Orn...

  • Alice

    I loved this book. I loved how spare the writing is, and the way a single crucial moment, a turning point in a character's life, a reflection or a memory could illuminate so much about the characters ...

  • Christoph Fischer

    "Esther Stories" by Peter Orner is a marvellous compilation of short stories.The first parts are a short and seemingly unconnected selection of stories. They were mostly amazing pieces of literature w...

  • Jim

    It's really tempting to lump Orner in with the grand tradition of Chicago writers from Algren to Bellow to Dybek and so forth, but what the hell do I know about Chicago? It's frozen solid at the momen...

  • Robert

    Fun Fact: Peter Orner is the cartoonist Eric Orner's younger brother. Must run in the family, huh. This is an exceptional collection of short stories about family, memory, love, pain, forgiveness, mar...

  • Rae

    So many good stories in this collection, but it's the accumulation of the telling, of all the slippery remembered moments that stays with me. The author shifts points of view and works with memory in ...

  • Laurie Doyle

    Peter Orner's short-shorts are some of the best in the world. I love many, but no one more than "On a Bridge Over the Homochitto." Orner deftly and beautifully captures the post World-War-II world, th...

  • Nancy Lin

    If you ever meet me in the street, remind me that I love short stories and this book is a great example why....