Cover image for Making nice
Making nice
Sumell, Matt, author.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Henry Holt and Company, 2015.
Physical Description:
x, 223 pages ; 22 cm
"Our rage-filled hero Alby is flailing wildly against the world around him--he punches his sister (she deserved it), 'unprotectos' broads (they deserved it and liked it), gets drunk and picks fights (all deserved), defends defenseless creatures both large and small, and spews insults at children, slow drivers, lunch ladies, and every single surviving member of his family. It seems he is the angriest young man in the history of angry young men, and in each of these stories, we watch him run at life with a breakneck speed. But after the loss of his mother to a long battle with cancer, swirling at the center of Alby's fury is a grief so big, so life-shatteringly profound, it might swallow him whole"--
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Crane Branch Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Julia Boyer Reinstein Library FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Named a book of the year by BUSTLE and ELECTRIC LITERATURE

"Alby is Holden Caulfield in the Internet age..." -- Los Angeles Times

Hailed as "indelible" by Entertainment Weekly , a "cringe-inducingly funny" ( The Wall Street Journal) gut-punch of a debut about love, grief, and family "unleashes one of the most comically arresting voices this side of Sam Lipsyte's Homeland " ( Publishers Weekly , starred review)

In Matt Sumell's blazing first book, our hero Alby flails wildly against the world around him--he punches his sister (she deserved it), "unprotectos" broads (they deserved it and liked it), gets drunk and picks fights (all deserved), defends defenseless creatures both large and small, and spews insults at children, slow drivers, old ladies, and every single surviving member of his family. In each of these stories Alby distills the anguish, the terror, the humor, and the strange grace--or lack of--he experiences in the aftermath of his mother's death. Swirling at the center of Alby's rage is a grief so big, so profound, it might swallow him whole. As he drinks, screws, and jokes his way through his pain and heartache, Alby's anger, his kindness, and his capacity for good bubble up when he (and we) least expect it. Sumell delivers "a naked rendering of a heart sorting through its broken pieces to survive.*"

Making Nice is a powerful, full-steam-ahead ride that will keep you laughing even as you try to catch your breath; a new classic about love, loss, and the fine line between grappling through grief and fighting for (and with) the only family you've got.

*Mark Richard

Author Notes

Matt Sumell is a graduate of UC Irvine's MFA program, and his fiction has since appeared in Esquire , the Paris Review , Electric Literature , One Story , Noon , and elsewhere. He lives in Los Angeles, California. Making Nice is his first book.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Sumell's compulsively readable novel in stories introduces a restless underachiever as irresistible as he is detestable, surely one of the most morally, violently, socially complex personalities in recent literature. Alby is the kind of guy who determines the nurses he'd like to bang while waiting to say his final words to his dying mother at the hospital; who cares for an injured bird while envisioning training it to become a rapaciously murderous hawk. His overt sarcasm elicits the ire of everyone around him, though he's just as likely to beat someone up who irritates him. And no one is exempt from his erratic fury even his father and sister, both of whom he punches and later defends. His safe house is the bar, where he drunkenly contemplates his aimless future, ogles weirdos and hot girls, and once rescues a mailman from a drunken stupor. As Alby tough-talks his way around his mother's death, he offends women he hopes to sleep with and picks up odd jobs to fill his indescribable void. Sumell's debut is humbly macho, provoking outrage, pity, and finally tenderness. Perhaps this is a book readers will hate to love, but only because it feels, like Alby, all too real.--Fullmer, Jonathan Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

From the first page, Sumell's exceptional novel in stories unleashes one of the most comically arresting voices this side of Sam Lipsyte's Homeland. Alby is congenitally violent, frequently intoxicated, eloquently abusive, a 30-year-old "loser" (according to his sister), and unmistakably American. Even on her deathbed, Alby's mother can't think of anything nice to say about him, and so Alby spirals into barely concealed rage, lashing out at his sister (whom he punches, noting, "Siblings don't count as ladies"), his father (who lives mostly on Hot Pockets), and his girlfriends-including one whom he compulsively humiliates in "Toast" (originally published in the Paris Review) and a waitress who out-matures him in "The Block, Twice." But Alby's biggest victim is himself; essentially a hostage to his temper and grief, he is a sort of every-bro. He also emerges as the protector of a helpless bird (although he hopes to train it to "bite people's dicks off in the dark"), cares for his bedridden grandmother (though he makes a bet that she "wouldn't make it past December"), and feels genuine remorse for all the people he's punched in the face (like the guy who said he "should be nicer to people"). This exasperating, pitiable, contemptible man is as beautiful and wounded a soul as your little brother or worst foe. Sumell's debut demonstrates an almost painful compassion for the sinner in most of us, making Making Nice even more fun than eavesdropping in a confession booth. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Debut author Sumell offers a visceral and somewhat disturbing collection of linked stories featuring a grown man's struggle with himself. Alby has trouble "making nice"; he picks fights, throws things, punches people, and is generally verbally and physically unpleasant. That many of these behaviors are directed toward his family is not surprising. Presented from a first-person perspective as a series of time-shifting episodes, the narrative focuses on Alby's relationships with people-his struggle with his mother's death, his relationship with his paraplegic father, and his stormy exchanges with his siblings and girlfriend. Interestingly, at some point one begins to like him. This is saying a lot because he is downright despicable, but perhaps the voice of Alby is merely that of honesty. VERDICT The ugliness in this book is leavened with beauty; every disgusting thing the protagonist does is told with artistic insight in language that's poignant. In addition, there's plenty of truly moving storytelling about Alby's life that brings him into focus, transforming his character, in a feat of astonishing literary legerdemain, into someone sympathetic. Recommended for intrepid fans of transformative fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 8/18/14.]-Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos Lib., CA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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