Sunday, July 9, 2017


Title:  The Graybar Hotel:Stories
Author:  Curtis Dawkins
Publisher: Scribner
Available: Now 7/4/17
Genre:  Short Story Collection
Source:  NetGalley

In this stunning debut collection, Curtis Dawkins, an MFA graduate and convicted murderer serving life without parole, takes us inside the worlds of prison and prisoners with stories that dazzle with their humor and insight, even as they describe a harsh and barren existence.

In Curtis Dawkins’s first short story collection, he offers a window into prison life through the eyes of his narrators and their cellmates. Dawkins reveals the idiosyncrasies, tedium, and desperation of long-term incarceration—he describes men who struggle to keep their souls alive despite the challenges they face.

In “A Human Number,” a man spends his days collect-calling strangers just to hear the sounds of the outside world. In “573543,” an inmate recalls his descent into addiction as his prison softball team gears up for an annual tournament against another unit. In “Leche Quemada,” an inmate is released and finds freedom more complex and baffling then he expected. Dawkins’s stories are funny and sad, filled with unforgettable detail—the barter system based on calligraphy-ink tattoos, handmade cards, and cigarettes; a single dandelion smuggled in from the rec yard; candy made from powdered milk, water, sugar, and hot sauce. His characters are nuanced and sympathetic, despite their obvious flaws.

The Graybar Hotel tells moving, human stories about men enduring impossible circumstances. Dawkins takes readers beyond the cells into characters’ pasts and memories and desires, into the unusual bonds that form during incarceration and the strained relationships with family members on the outside. He’s an extraordinary writer with a knack for metaphor, and this is a powerful compilation of stories that gives voice to the experience of perhaps the most overlooked members of our society.

I wasn't sure how to first take this book, so I just dived in Short stories can be hit or miss with me, but this collection was spot on! I loved the stories, albeit if this were a novel even better! It was like peaking into a world where you have all the questions but none of the answers and then Bam, someone that can write great prose shows you inside that room. I realize this is a work of fiction, but hey, he's writing from inside a prison so I'm sure there's some truth behind those words The truth behind the fiction, the words behind the words is what will hit you and probably stay with you for quite some time! If you like short stories, and want to see a little more behind the scenes of a prison and learn a lot more about freedom, pick this up. It flew by and I was done before I realized it, or you can even take bits and pieces and stretch it out over a longer length of time.

review copy courtesy of netgalley

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