Cover image for An ornithologist's guide to life
An ornithologist's guide to life
Hood, Ann, 1956-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [2004]

Physical Description:
237 pages ; 22 cm
Total cave darkness -- The rightness of things -- The language of sorrow -- After Zane -- Joelle's mother -- Escapes -- Lost parts -- Dropping bombs -- Inside Gorbachev's head -- New people -- An ornothologist's guide to life.
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FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Looking at her characters as if through a pair of binoculars, Ann Hood captures the extraordinary in the ordinary. A pregnant woman left by her husband cooks obsessively to cope with her loss, but never tastes a morsel. In an attempt to stay sober, a young alcoholic seduces her priest and embarks on a tour of caverns with him. An adolescent girl picks up bird-watching as a hobby and, in her newfound habit of observing others, discovers a budding romance between her mother and her neighbor. These stories, many published in The Paris Review, Glimmer Train, Story, and The Colorado Review, are full of characters seeking an escape from their lives while uncovering small moments of understanding that often have huge implications and consequences. They discover that they can only find peace once they stop searching for a way out. Through a set of diverse voices and lively storytelling, Hood creates authentic, personal, secret worlds full of eccentric detail.

Author Notes

Ann Hood was born on December 9, 1956, in West Warwick, R.I. She attended the University of Rhode Island and New York University. For several years, she worked as a flight attendant before pursuing her dream of becoming a writer.

Ann Hood had a dream of writing ever since her first "novel" at the age of 11. It was not until 1987, with the publication of Somewhere off the Coast of Maine that she received the recognition she had been longing for. Set in the period from the 1960s to the 1980s, the story deals with the lives of three women of the Vietnam era and their children. Strong on emotion and personal growth, Hood's writing frequently examines the intricacies of various levels of relationships. Other works include Something Blue, which also involves the association between three friends.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Hood is a seductive storyteller, given her emotionally reckless and nonconformist characters, sensuous detail, precise dialogue, and keen rendition of the inner monologue that so often contradicts what we say and do. She also engineers just the sort of painful and inexplicable familial and romantic predicaments friends spend hours attempting to decipher. A novelist with a loyal following-- Ruby (1998) is her most recent--Hood now presents a collection of thorny short stories dramatizing the struggle to get on with life in the wake of divorce or death. Parental love interests Hood as much as romantic love, and she writes with electrifying frankness about child-custody conflicts, teenagers derailed by their father's suicide, a mother who finds the strength to tell her reticent gay son that she accepts who he is, and women facing unwanted pregnancies. But what's most arresting about these stories is their ferocious sexuality, an animality wryly noted in the collection's title and explored in each finely crafted tale with candor, wit, and high regard for women's resiliency and spirit. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

A first collection by novelist Hood (Something Blue; Ruby; etc.) comprises 11 conventional but affecting stories that suffer from a back-cover comparison to Lorrie Moore and Antonya Nelson. The first, "Total Cave Darkness," is winning, relating the adventures of the alcoholic narrator (who has a tender love affair with the bottle) and a young, foxy minister on an injudicious road trip. "After Zane," which begins like Amy Hempel's masterful "Beg, Sl Tog, Inc, Cont, Rep" with a woman who staves off grief through compulsive domesticity, features a narrator who bakes constantly after the father of her unborn child decamps. Wonderful in parts, flabby in others, the story strains, like others here, for a final-page profundity (often via a lovely but easy metaphor). A gentle story about the growing friendship between a pregnant divorc?e and a Martha Stewart mom, for example, is marred by an ending that is simultaneously predictable and improbable. But Hood's stories can be quite moving: "Escapes" surprises with a fierce revelation that forges a stronger bond between a troubled young girl and her aunt, while in "The Language of Sorrow" a woman and her grandson grapple with matters of death and new life. Hood is a polished writer and a careful observer, and she walks the popular funny-sad line very well, but perhaps not as adroitly as the convention's aforementioned greats. Agent, Gail Hochman. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Hood (Ruby; Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine) focuses on relationships in these short stories, many of which were previously published in respected literary journals. Readers will meet an alcoholic and a minister on a rambling, adulterous tour of the mid-Atlantic; a woman and her teenaged grandson awaiting the birth of his child from a distance; a struggling couple who have a car accident, leaving the survivor to grieve; and three young girls who idolize the mother of their stepsister until they meet her. These stories have bite, much like Doris Lessing's newest, but they are not so stark. Hood has enough perception to leave her characters room to grow after the stories end. While each piece is distinctive, a continuity of voice ties them together. Recommended for libraries where there is an interest in short fiction or women's fiction.-Amy Ford, St. Mary's Cty. Memorial Lib., Lexington Park, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.