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All Aunt Hagar's Children: Stories

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Edward P. Jones, a prodigy of the short story, returns to the form that first won him praise in this new collection of stories, All Aunt Hagar's Children. Here he turns an unflinching eye to the men, women, and children caught between the old ways of the South and the temptations that await them in the city, people who in Jones's masterful hands emerge as fully human and m Edward P. Jones, a prodigy of the short story, returns to the form that first won him praise in this new collection of stories, All Aunt Hagar's Children. Here he turns an unflinching eye to the men, women, and children caught between the old ways of the South and the temptations that await them in the city, people who in Jones's masterful hands emerge as fully human and morally complex. With the legacy of slavery just a stone's throw behind them and the future uncertain, Jones's cornucopia of characters will haunt readers for years to come.


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Edward P. Jones, a prodigy of the short story, returns to the form that first won him praise in this new collection of stories, All Aunt Hagar's Children. Here he turns an unflinching eye to the men, women, and children caught between the old ways of the South and the temptations that await them in the city, people who in Jones's masterful hands emerge as fully human and m Edward P. Jones, a prodigy of the short story, returns to the form that first won him praise in this new collection of stories, All Aunt Hagar's Children. Here he turns an unflinching eye to the men, women, and children caught between the old ways of the South and the temptations that await them in the city, people who in Jones's masterful hands emerge as fully human and morally complex. With the legacy of slavery just a stone's throw behind them and the future uncertain, Jones's cornucopia of characters will haunt readers for years to come.

30 review for All Aunt Hagar's Children: Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Carole

    Edward P. Jones was lionized with the publication of The Known World, but that book kind of left me cold. I couldn't understand what all the excitement was about, unless it was the novelty of a black man writing about a black man who owned black slaves in nineteenth century America. The writing was stiff and the story was not gripping or even very memorable. But I changed my opinion about this author when I read his short stories. This is where his real talent lies, in writing about ordinary fol Edward P. Jones was lionized with the publication of The Known World, but that book kind of left me cold. I couldn't understand what all the excitement was about, unless it was the novelty of a black man writing about a black man who owned black slaves in nineteenth century America. The writing was stiff and the story was not gripping or even very memorable. But I changed my opinion about this author when I read his short stories. This is where his real talent lies, in writing about ordinary folks in Washington, DC, where Jones has dwelled all his life. He breathes life into his characters, who are three dimensional, flawed and complex. They are lovingly portrayed and dignified even at their worst. Jones displays an easy familiarity with a wide cast of characters, whom you feel he has probably grown up with. He brings us right down to street level, and in many of the stories he traces their steps by spelling out the streets and corners that they pass. It is an earlier Washington, D.C. that most readers are not familiar with, but you can almost picture the old neighborhoods, long gone, in sepia tones, that thousands of blacks called home. Or tried to call home, as many had come from the South and reminisced about the food and gentility of the southern ways. Jones finds the human streak in the most callous of persons. In Old Boys, Old Girls, the hardened ex-con finds it impossible to accept the help of his family, but seeks a seedier, solitary life on the fringes. When an old girlfriend, who has degenerated into a squalid existence and does not recognize him, passes away in his flop house, he meticulously and lovingly cleans up the room she died in and leaves the body washed, dressed and dignified. Then he moves on. It is a touching scene and typical of the tenderness with which Jones can evoke the human spirit.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    I was really excited to read this book as All Aunt Hagar's Children was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Edward P. Jones (The Known World). Although I liked the premise behind this book of short stories which deals with the African-American experience in Washington DC throughout historical time,regrettably I just couldn't get into it. The first, In the Blink of God's Eye is about newlyweds, Ruth and Aubrey Patterson as the set about starting their new life in Washington. Shortly after their arri I was really excited to read this book as All Aunt Hagar's Children was written by Pulitzer Prize winner Edward P. Jones (The Known World). Although I liked the premise behind this book of short stories which deals with the African-American experience in Washington DC throughout historical time,regrettably I just couldn't get into it. The first, In the Blink of God's Eye is about newlyweds, Ruth and Aubrey Patterson as the set about starting their new life in Washington. Shortly after their arrival, Ruth discovers an infant tied into a tree. Although she is not keen on city life, she is enamored with the child. As the book progresses, the protagonists increase with age. This is the same formula that Jones uses in his other book of short stories, Lost in the City. As other reviewers found that these characters paralleled those in All Aunt Hagar's Children, I tried to get a hold of the other book so that I may read them in tandem and gain further insight. Try as I might the stories remained words on a page. I rarely found myself transported to some other time and space; breathing in the atmosphere of the characters. Although others may be able to empathize more with the characters and find the themes more relevant to their lives, it just didn't do it for me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    This is an extraordinary collection of stories about African-Americans in and around Washington D.C. from the time of early migrations from the South to roughly the 1980s. I read some of the stories before they were collected, in The New Yorker; others when the book first came out, still others only more recently, so that in piecemeal fashion I've now read a few of the pieces in the collection three or four times. I mention this because, though I was a wildly enthusiastic fan of Jones's previous This is an extraordinary collection of stories about African-Americans in and around Washington D.C. from the time of early migrations from the South to roughly the 1980s. I read some of the stories before they were collected, in The New Yorker; others when the book first came out, still others only more recently, so that in piecemeal fashion I've now read a few of the pieces in the collection three or four times. I mention this because, though I was a wildly enthusiastic fan of Jones's previous books, Lost in the City and The Known World, I was initially disappointed by many of the tales here. I thought them diffuse and inconclusive. This was entirely due to the fact that they are in fact even richer and more complex than stories in Lost in the City and often can't be sufficiently appreciated on a first read. Jones often deals with such large swaths of time and so many characters that it can take a read or two just to absorb everything that's going on. It's on later reads that the delicacy and psychology and patterning of the stories begin to work their singular magic. Jones is going to be read decades and decades from now, when many writers more comfortable with and willing to exploit (or be exploited by) the media have come to seem less relevant.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Really beautiful, carefully crafted stories about life in DC. I liked The Known World a lot, but wasn't completely sold on Jones until this book. In All Aunt Hagar's Children, he weaves the fantastical together with the harsh realities of poverty, using rich prose and imagery. Even if you are not a fan of short stories (or fiction for that matter), I would recommend trying this book. Jones is such a talented writer that I would find myself stuck on sentences and phrases unable to move on (like wh Really beautiful, carefully crafted stories about life in DC. I liked The Known World a lot, but wasn't completely sold on Jones until this book. In All Aunt Hagar's Children, he weaves the fantastical together with the harsh realities of poverty, using rich prose and imagery. Even if you are not a fan of short stories (or fiction for that matter), I would recommend trying this book. Jones is such a talented writer that I would find myself stuck on sentences and phrases unable to move on (like when you find yourself playing a great new song on repeat).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

    I think I am done with this one, at least for now. I've read the first 5 out of 14 stories (132 pages) and am finding it a drag, though I loved The Known World years ago and later on liked Lost in the City. The going felt slow, and the stories felt cluttered and sometimes confusing. Not all readers will share my short story preferences - I like them to be streamlined and to end with a bang - but that didn't really fit with these stories, which tend to meander along with two or three subplots tha I think I am done with this one, at least for now. I've read the first 5 out of 14 stories (132 pages) and am finding it a drag, though I loved The Known World years ago and later on liked Lost in the City. The going felt slow, and the stories felt cluttered and sometimes confusing. Not all readers will share my short story preferences - I like them to be streamlined and to end with a bang - but that didn't really fit with these stories, which tend to meander along with two or three subplots that often don't reach any resolution or have much to do with the main plot. They're well-written and I'd hardly say they were objectively bad, but I'm not feeling it right now. Some commentary on the individual stories, because I always want to see more of that in reviews of collections: "In the Blink of God's Eye" - a young couple moves from Virginia to D.C. at the beginning of the 20th century, and begins to grow apart after she adopts a baby abandoned in their yard. I liked this one, though I felt it was a little padded out with the stories of secondary characters. "Spanish in the Morning" - a young girl starts at Catholic school and skips ahead to first grade. The ending of this one baffled me. (view spoiler)[She falls at her desk when standing up and thinking about how she's not happy about the treatment of a couple of other students, and then we rejoin her in bed at home with a wound in her hand and her family saying she doesn't have to return to that school. I couldn't tell whether she'd had a seizure or medical episode - which would make sense practically but not thematically and wouldn't explain the wound - or whether she spoke up and the teacher stabbed her in the hand, fitting in with a story an older relative told her earlier about a teacher who had a pitchfork like the Devil. Which would make sense thematically but is bizarre. (hide spoiler)] "Resurrecting Methuselah" - an American soldier in Korea is diagnosed with breast cancer, and his wife decides to leave him. In this one it was the motivations that confused me. We spend a lot of time with the wife, including a long sequence in Hawaii on the way to Korea in which she buys some candy she remembers from her childhood to find it completely different. (view spoiler)[Then for some reason that was unclear to me, she immediately gives up on visiting her husband and flies home instead. My guess is that, having spent her adolescence as an invalid, she wasn't willing to have sickness in her house or around her daughter. But what does the candy have to do with it? (hide spoiler)] "Old Boys, Old Girls" - a young man is imprisoned for the second of two murders he's committed, does his time, and once on the outside, has to figure out how his family and an old lover fit into his life. I liked this one, which is interesting and doesn't have room for random subplots. "All Aunt Hagar's Children" - a Korean war vet wants to head out to Alaska to pan for gold, but the older women of his family ask him to look into the murder of one of their sons instead, and he does. This was interesting but the end unconvincing. (view spoiler)[He sees the murdered man's wife strike a powerful pose and concludes that she was the murderer, although there are plenty of other suspects. (hide spoiler)] And this one too grew weeds: it spends a lot of time on a stranger who died in front of the narrator getting off a streetcar, which does nothing in the story other than to haunt him, and I didn't believe for a minute that he somehow memorized her last words when they were full sentences in a language he didn't speak. Strings of unfamiliar words are unmemorable gibberish to me, and I'm good at foreign languages. At any rate, I'm certainly not denying that there's merit here, but this wasn't the right time for this book, so it's heading back to the library.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Roxane Beth Johnson

    These stories are perfect. That's all I can say. "The Devil Swims Across the Anacosta" blew my mind and rendered me helplessly amazed. Not kidding or exaggerating. I read it with lips ajar, in much the way I imagine all those boys out there read "Lolita" (hate that book, love everything else by Nabokov though and have read much of it. How come no one gets as excited by his book King, Queen, Knave? or Pnin? There's a masterpiece.). Didn't read every single story. I want to save something for late These stories are perfect. That's all I can say. "The Devil Swims Across the Anacosta" blew my mind and rendered me helplessly amazed. Not kidding or exaggerating. I read it with lips ajar, in much the way I imagine all those boys out there read "Lolita" (hate that book, love everything else by Nabokov though and have read much of it. How come no one gets as excited by his book King, Queen, Knave? or Pnin? There's a masterpiece.). Didn't read every single story. I want to save something for later. What I read was, as I said, perfect.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Edward P. Jones’ Lost in the City, his first collection of short stories, stands as a contemporary American masterpiece. Like Lost in the City, Jones’s All Aunt Hagar’s Children focuses on stories of the varied and long-standing African American community of Washington, D.C. in the 1950s and 1960s, their eager and hopeful journeys from the rural south to D.C., their rediscoveries of their rural roots, their loves and forbearance, and their emergence into successful bureaucrats and professionals, Edward P. Jones’ Lost in the City, his first collection of short stories, stands as a contemporary American masterpiece. Like Lost in the City, Jones’s All Aunt Hagar’s Children focuses on stories of the varied and long-standing African American community of Washington, D.C. in the 1950s and 1960s, their eager and hopeful journeys from the rural south to D.C., their rediscoveries of their rural roots, their loves and forbearance, and their emergence into successful bureaucrats and professionals, and sometimes less successful and rougher lives. All Aunt Hagar’s Children can also be read as a dialog or a continuation of Jones’s stories in Lost in the City. All Aunt Hagar’s Children includes some wonderful stories: my favorites include “In the Blink of God’s Eye,” “Spanish in the Morning,” “Adam Robinson Acquires,” “Common Law,” and “Tapestry.” A few others stories were more difficult for me to enjoy, such as “Old Boys, Old Girls,” “A Poor Guatemalan Dreams,” and “The Devil Swims Across.” But despite what I felt was some unevenness in the stories, All Aunt Hagar’s Children is full of wonderful and memorable scenes, sentences, paragraphs, and dialogue.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Moonkiszt

    So many stories. . . .people in transition from one hardship to another, never catching a break. I read through to the end, but it was more like a school assignment I'd given myself. Which it was. . .short stories are . . .too short. I'm always looking for the long tale, not the storius interruptus. Probably the little girl me hunting like crazy for that happy ending. Working on reprograming, I guess. Out of all the stories the one I most liked was Adam Robinson Acquires Grandparents and a Little So many stories. . . .people in transition from one hardship to another, never catching a break. I read through to the end, but it was more like a school assignment I'd given myself. Which it was. . .short stories are . . .too short. I'm always looking for the long tale, not the storius interruptus. Probably the little girl me hunting like crazy for that happy ending. Working on reprograming, I guess. Out of all the stories the one I most liked was Adam Robinson Acquires Grandparents and a Little Sister. Beautiful writing herein. . . .but still a struggle for me, if I'm honest.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Bashaar

    I like some plot in my stories, and most of these stories were very light on plot. The endings were ambiguous and subtle; you couldn't always tell tell what, if anything, had changed. Still, I enjoyed the stories and intend to read more of Jones's work. What I really like about his writing is how he creates a world and puts you right in it. He writes almost exclusively about Black people in Washington DC in the 20th century. Especially when you read a whole book of his stories over a fairly short I like some plot in my stories, and most of these stories were very light on plot. The endings were ambiguous and subtle; you couldn't always tell tell what, if anything, had changed. Still, I enjoyed the stories and intend to read more of Jones's work. What I really like about his writing is how he creates a world and puts you right in it. He writes almost exclusively about Black people in Washington DC in the 20th century. Especially when you read a whole book of his stories over a fairly short period of time, you feel like you begin to understand their world. He writes about both middle to upper-middle class Blacks and poor ones, people whose parents remember slavery and more modern people, recent immigrants to DC as well as those whose families have been in the capital for a couple of generations. The overall effect is of an epic history of a People, but it is told in the form of fiction about individual lives, most of them quite humble. I really liked the last story in this collection, "Tapestry." It was about a young bride on her way to DC with her new husband, who is a porter on the train they are travelling on. She has an experience that lets her know that DC will be different from the small southern town that she's coming from. It was appropriate that this was the last story in the book. It tells the reader that all the experiences of the DC residents in all the previous stories started from one brave ancestor who came north and had to learn to swallow humiliation, make compromises, soldier on through hardship, and survive.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Edward P. Jones is an amazing writer. In a short space, he creates and shows us a universe. This book of 14 stories gets better and better (and I'm only on pg 149). That it is set in Washington, D.C. gives it a local interest. *** Just finished this morning. I admire how the last story Tapestry swings around to both the first story and the dedication to "to the multitudes who came up out of the South for something better, something different". But then there is much I admire in each of these sto Edward P. Jones is an amazing writer. In a short space, he creates and shows us a universe. This book of 14 stories gets better and better (and I'm only on pg 149). That it is set in Washington, D.C. gives it a local interest. *** Just finished this morning. I admire how the last story Tapestry swings around to both the first story and the dedication to "to the multitudes who came up out of the South for something better, something different". But then there is much I admire in each of these stories--each page would not be an exaggeration.

  11. 4 out of 5

    meeners

    i gave 4 stars for lost in the city but i think that, when taken together, this + lost in the city would be included in my list of the best english-language writing from the past decade. [and you really should read both books together. the first story in lost in the city gets linked to the first story in all aunt hagar's children, the second with the second, and so on. there are also complex links between stories within an individual volume.] edward p. jones combines the economy of the short sto i gave 4 stars for lost in the city but i think that, when taken together, this + lost in the city would be included in my list of the best english-language writing from the past decade. [and you really should read both books together. the first story in lost in the city gets linked to the first story in all aunt hagar's children, the second with the second, and so on. there are also complex links between stories within an individual volume.] edward p. jones combines the economy of the short story, where every word is given a precise and profound weight, with the wide enfolding sweep of the long novel. remarkable, and unforgettable. jones' prose is quietly, unobtrusively beautiful. but it's hard to pick out a representative quote for a review. when a sentence catches you, when a passage takes your breath away, it isn't because it relies on a fine turn of words or an easy flash of insight. it's because, as i said before, it has been built upon and against the weight of everything that has come before. "craft" here is a good word for what jones is doing. his writing is a careful, patient, meticulous craft. anyway, here's one example, the last lines of one of my favorite stories, just for a sense of the thing. The bright road eventually came back again and went on a bit until it dipped swiftly and disappeared once more. Momentarily. She waited and she could see, with some relief, where many people were walking and riding all along it once it reappeared, sloping gently down as it wound a crooked way to what her guidebook had told her was "the Valley of Enormous Science Mysteries and Smallest Happenings." She could see the eternal road emerge almost miraculously from the valley, still crooked, still shimmering, still full of humanity, and she turned to her new husband to tell him what the path ahead would be like.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    His third work of fiction and second short story collection, All Aunt Hagar’s Children is every bit as good as its predecessors. Like his first collection, Lost in the City, the stories here are set mostly in Washington, D.C. Some, like the excellent “Root Worker,” include southern starts or returns, even if just across the Potomac. They span a range of experiences and times from the late 19th century through to contemporary times. “Root Worker” tells the story of a smart, highly successful doct His third work of fiction and second short story collection, All Aunt Hagar’s Children is every bit as good as its predecessors. Like his first collection, Lost in the City, the stories here are set mostly in Washington, D.C. Some, like the excellent “Root Worker,” include southern starts or returns, even if just across the Potomac. They span a range of experiences and times from the late 19th century through to contemporary times. “Root Worker” tells the story of a smart, highly successful doctor who can’t slow her mother’s declining health until the mother’s aide convinces the family to postpone a vacation to Massachusetts and instead take a trip south to North Carolina to a legendary root worker. Implicit in this story and in others, such as “In the Blink of God’s Eye,” is that power of home calls endlessly and not all places are home. The young wife in “In the Blink of God’s Eye” doesn’t fit in Washington as her husband moves her across the river. D.C. welcomes the husband but his wife and their found child (literally discovered wrapped in a bundle dangling from a tree in Virginia before they depart for the city) struggle with alienation and the wife makes excuses to return to Virginia and eventually stays put. D.C. is this complicated, beckoning city of opportunity for African Americans but it’s an opportunity that comes with the high cost of dislocation. Jones is a great writer, rendering complex relationships and histories in taut, economic stories that disturb and inspire.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rosana

    I finished reading All Aunt’s Hagar Children a few days ago and had to come back to write a little blurb about it because those stories are still lingering around me. Of course, as in any collection of stories, 3 or 4 make a bigger impact then the rest, however I was quite surprised of how even this selection is overall. Not a small task in a book with 14 stories. Those are complex stories, with a multitude of secondary characters – neighbors, relatives, ancestors – showing up and furnishing the I finished reading All Aunt’s Hagar Children a few days ago and had to come back to write a little blurb about it because those stories are still lingering around me. Of course, as in any collection of stories, 3 or 4 make a bigger impact then the rest, however I was quite surprised of how even this selection is overall. Not a small task in a book with 14 stories. Those are complex stories, with a multitude of secondary characters – neighbors, relatives, ancestors – showing up and furnishing the main story line with flavor and color and creating whole universes. The language is poetic. The prose is full of subtle – and not so subtle - magic realism: the devil shows up at a grocery store; a woman paints pictures of people dead in different countries and time; and yet another woman becomes blind while taking the bus home. But, most often, the stories are about people dealing with the tragedies of their lives, small and big disappointments and endless hope for whatever is to come. I do love short stories, a genre I realize not every reader appreciates. And Edward P. Jones excels at the genre. I did love his novel “The Known World”, but I crave for more of his short stories.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bryan--Pumpkin Connoisseur

    I originally began this book several years ago, but never made it all the way through. That was less about the quality of the book than it was about my impatience as a reader. Because it had been so long since I'd read the first few stories, I started over, reading one story a day in order avoid the fatigue that sets in for me when reading a single author collection. What I did remember about the collection wasn't all that favorable--basically, that it had been 'just okay'. When I re-started, I I originally began this book several years ago, but never made it all the way through. That was less about the quality of the book than it was about my impatience as a reader. Because it had been so long since I'd read the first few stories, I started over, reading one story a day in order avoid the fatigue that sets in for me when reading a single author collection. What I did remember about the collection wasn't all that favorable--basically, that it had been 'just okay'. When I re-started, I had that same feeling to begin with--in fact, I found my old bookmark, and didn't remember most of the stories that I'd previously read. This time, however, once I got into the third story or so, I really started to enjoy it. I'm not sure what the difference is--my maturation as a reader maybe, or just that I'm in a position where I enjoy Jones' style more now than I did a few years ago. All of the stories center around African-American characters living in the Washington D.C area during the 20th century, and there are several themes Jones returns to over and over--the cultural bonds that many of the characters shared with friends and families they left behind in southern states, the difficulty of creating new cultural norms in Washington, the disillusion many found in Washington after the promise of a new start, how relationships between men and women changed over the years, as well as several others. What emerges is a kaleidoscope of images of a people in a time and place that drew me in further the more I read. I can't say what particularly impressed me about the stories--Jones' stories are well-crafted, though some of his stylistic tics became more obvious as the stories went on. Still, well-crafted stories are not always enough, and probably what was more captivating to me was the glimpse into African-American culture that is defined on its own terms. Race relations are threaded throughout the book--I don't think a book like this could be written without acknowledging injustices--but this is not a book about how African-Americans manage to live in a world that has victimized them. Rather this is a book about how African-Americans live in the world. It's the humanity of the characters that drew me in--some good, some not so good, but in all, just a mixture. I had long ago decided I didn't need to read Jones' book The Known World--I'd heard the synopsis and thought that was probably enough. Now, after enjoying this collection of short-stories so much, I've reconsidered that idea. I'll also be looking for his other collection of stories, Lost in the City

  15. 4 out of 5

    robin friedman

    Hagar's Children In his highly-acclaimed volume of 14 stories, "All Aunt Hagar's Children", Edward P. Jones draws portraits of African Americans who have migrated from the South to Washington D.C. The stories are set from around the beginning of the 20th Century to the present day. The stories describe many types of people from young children to old men and women and from the poor and illiterate to the highly educated. They speak of loneliness and change, of the frustration, sexual and otherwise, Hagar's Children In his highly-acclaimed volume of 14 stories, "All Aunt Hagar's Children", Edward P. Jones draws portraits of African Americans who have migrated from the South to Washington D.C. The stories are set from around the beginning of the 20th Century to the present day. The stories describe many types of people from young children to old men and women and from the poor and illiterate to the highly educated. They speak of loneliness and change, of the frustration, sexual and otherwise, that results from moving to a new urban place, of criminality and drugs, and of education. The stories are short but deeply textured, as in tapestries(the title of the final story). Characters, histories and sub-themes are realized in brief spaces. The writing style in these stories is a major factor in their success. All but two of the stories are told in the third person by an all-knowing narrator. (The exceptions are "Spanish in the Morning" told in the voice of a precocious young girl and the title story "All Aunt Hagar's Children told in the voice of a young Korean War veteran who hopes to move to Alaska in search of fortune and women.) The writing is full of Biblical allusions. Hagar, of course, was the concubine of the patriarch Abraham who was sent into the desert after she mocked the childlessness of Sarah who then became jealous of her. God spared Hagar and her children. The figure of Hagar is used her for the outsider and the outcast -- symbolizing the lives of the African American characters of the stories. The language of the stories in its richness, difficulty, and frequent elliptical character, particularly in its repetition and in its use of names, also owes a great deal to the Old Testament. There is also much in the stories that reminds me of the African American preacher of James Weldon Johnson's poem "God's Trombones". The rich, narrative voice of the stories is complemented by the contrasting voice of many of the characters with its slang, dialect, and frequent use of obscenity. The stories develop character and place. Jones shows the reader a Washington D.C separate from the world of national politics familiar to most Americans. I have lived in Washington D.C. for many years. Jones's depictions of neighborhoods, streets, landmarks, stores, and people had a deep sense of familiarity. They also helped me see the familiar aspects of my city in a new way. The characters are true and believable in their many responses to living in Washington. The stories I especially enjoyed included the first story "In the Blink of God's Eye" and the final story "Tapestries". Both these stories are set both in the rural South and in Washington, D.C., the former at the turn of the 20th Century and the latter in the 1930s. They both show the difficulties young married couples encounter with the change of place. The story "Old Boys Old Girls" describes the life of a young man who spends years in Lorton prison and his attempt to make a life for himself when he is released. Jones contrasts the life of his down-and-out protagonist with the lives of his wealthy and successful family. "A Poor Guatamalean Dreams of a Downtown in Peru" tells of a young poor girl who achieves great academic success but whose life has otherwise been filled with catastrophe and loss. "All Aunt Hagar's Children" is a complex story filled with themes of womanizing, murder, family, and wanderlust. It is a compelling portrait of African American life in the Washington D.C. of the early 1950s and it touches briefly as well upon African American -- Jewish relations. My two favorite stories were "Root Worker" and "Bad Neighbors" both of which explore themes of the search for love and finding it in unexpected places. The main character in "Root Worker" is a young successful woman doctor who gives up a planned vacation to travel South to consult a root doctor for what ails her mother. In the process, she learns a great deal about herself. "Bad Neighbors" tells the story of a large, poor family that rents a home in a middle-class black neighborhood where they are shunned and feared by their more successful neighbors. There are many turns as the story progresses, as the main character, a young woman who has become a nurse, gains a deeper understanding of people, status, and love. Jones' stories depict African American life in a loving, involved manner but without polemicizing or blatant social criticism. They are rooted in African American life but, in their treatment of love, sexuality, change, and character speak universally as well. The stories are dense and thoughtful and will reward careful reading. I am pleased that many of my fellow reviewers have enjoyed this outstanding book and written with insight about it. Robin Friedman

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nina

    As a writer, the things I enjoy most about reading Edward P. Jones are his specificity and the way he uses time and history. Specificity, as in he can add the most odd, unusual, or mundane detail to a character or a situation and bring it brings the story o life. Jones's work is more character-driven and plot is mostly built around an everydayness of the characters, so this specificity really does something for the reading experience. As far as history and time are concerned, Jones uses flash-for As a writer, the things I enjoy most about reading Edward P. Jones are his specificity and the way he uses time and history. Specificity, as in he can add the most odd, unusual, or mundane detail to a character or a situation and bring it brings the story o life. Jones's work is more character-driven and plot is mostly built around an everydayness of the characters, so this specificity really does something for the reading experience. As far as history and time are concerned, Jones uses flash-forward quite a bit and when he gives character backstory, it's often within the context of a larger black history (e.g., the Great Migration, etc.) so it truly feels that Jones's characters are moving through the everydayness of his stories with all of this history. In "Spanish in the Morning," there's a little girl starting school for the very first time. And as she prepares for this thing that is very new, not only to her but to her family, all of the men in her life (living and dead) start visiting her. It's a wonderful image and I suppose that's another thing I like about Jones's work. The images he creates, especially for his story endings.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nascha

    I have been wanting to read this book for years. I purchased a copy and it sat on my bookshelf because I was waiting for the *right* time to read it. And because I had not read Jones' two previous works (I have a thing about reading an author's work in order of their publication), I had put it off. But finally after reading excerpts of a few of the stories online, and despite not having read the other works, I plunged into this collection. From the beginning, I found the collection to be magical. I have been wanting to read this book for years. I purchased a copy and it sat on my bookshelf because I was waiting for the *right* time to read it. And because I had not read Jones' two previous works (I have a thing about reading an author's work in order of their publication), I had put it off. But finally after reading excerpts of a few of the stories online, and despite not having read the other works, I plunged into this collection. From the beginning, I found the collection to be magical. There is an element of magical realism in many of the stories, history of African Americans both living in Washington DC and from the South interweaved into the stories that span many decades of life in Capitol. I appreciated the complexity of the characters and the richness of the stories for they did not feel like short stories but felt like short novels because of the time spans and issues the characters experienced and addressed. I highly recommend this collection. And I look forward to delving into Jones' other books.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Roger DeBlanck

    All Aunt Hagar’s Children is a collection of blistering and mesmerizing stories. The settings range across Washington D.C. throughout the breadth of the 20th century. The stories are full of unsettling revelations that produce adversity and change in the lives of a plethora of unforgettable characters. These characters encounter complex and moral struggles that test their ability to overcome the destabilizing forces of sadness, emptiness, and loss. Jones covers territory as disturbing as the hor All Aunt Hagar’s Children is a collection of blistering and mesmerizing stories. The settings range across Washington D.C. throughout the breadth of the 20th century. The stories are full of unsettling revelations that produce adversity and change in the lives of a plethora of unforgettable characters. These characters encounter complex and moral struggles that test their ability to overcome the destabilizing forces of sadness, emptiness, and loss. Jones covers territory as disturbing as the horrors of violence and as sublime as the inexplicability of miracles. Heartfelt and haunting, these beautifully envisioned tales do not blink in the face of insurmountable hardship. Jones conjures up immense emotional power through his signature use of a spare and simple style. He is masterful at unveiling disturbing truths hidden in the human psyche. ,All Aunt Hagar’s Children is a harsh, uneasy, and stunning collection that takes hold of the human condition like a vise and uses a visionary compass to chart the tough road to haul towards healing and grace.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chana

    I am not a fan of short stories in general but this book was worse than I expected it might be. Almost every story had no ending, most contained adultery, and many contained violence. I usually like books in dialect but this was annoying with all the "whas" and dropped "g"s. Every page shouted "I'm black!" "I'm the black experience!" "I'm black and this is Washington D.C., and did I mention? I'm black!" As far as the endings of the stories, the endings were so random that I felt like he just sto I am not a fan of short stories in general but this book was worse than I expected it might be. Almost every story had no ending, most contained adultery, and many contained violence. I usually like books in dialect but this was annoying with all the "whas" and dropped "g"s. Every page shouted "I'm black!" "I'm the black experience!" "I'm black and this is Washington D.C., and did I mention? I'm black!" As far as the endings of the stories, the endings were so random that I felt like he just stopped typing at any given point without reason and that was called the end of a story. Only one story caught my interest and it had an ending. That was the story of the little boy who got grandparents and a little sister. The title is something along those lines in case you decide to look for it. In my opinion that was the only decent piece of writing in the book. Some of the other stories had potential, in a way, but they never materialized into anything.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Shek

    I thought I was going to love this, having read and much enjoyed one of the stories already. But it is really, really spotty. Jones tells a story in a way that includes hordes of tertiary characters and sometimes spans many years. Sometimes this works, and sometimes this is a mess. About a quarter of the stories are seriously engrossing, about a quarter are 30 to 40 page slogs, and the rest are pretty mediocre. Talking to other folks who've read it, some agree with me in principle, but have oppo I thought I was going to love this, having read and much enjoyed one of the stories already. But it is really, really spotty. Jones tells a story in a way that includes hordes of tertiary characters and sometimes spans many years. Sometimes this works, and sometimes this is a mess. About a quarter of the stories are seriously engrossing, about a quarter are 30 to 40 page slogs, and the rest are pretty mediocre. Talking to other folks who've read it, some agree with me in principle, but have opposite opinions on which stories are good and which are just ok. Frustrating. It did give me an excuse to serve chili dogs to a book club, so there is that.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Phillis

    Edward P. Jones is a new author to me and I picked this audiobook up because I wanted a change of pace from mysteries. Short stories I thought would do the trick and I do enjoy Peter Francis James' voice. Well out of 13 disks I made it to the 9th before I got terribly bored. The first couple of stores held my attention but then they began to sound as it the short stories could have been just one long story. It seemed repetitious. Grant it they were different families, different make-up of the fa Edward P. Jones is a new author to me and I picked this audiobook up because I wanted a change of pace from mysteries. Short stories I thought would do the trick and I do enjoy Peter Francis James' voice. Well out of 13 disks I made it to the 9th before I got terribly bored. The first couple of stores held my attention but then they began to sound as it the short stories could have been just one long story. It seemed repetitious. Grant it they were different families, different make-up of the family -- I just felt like one story could have blended into the next. I will try "The Known World" and hope Mr. Jones will become an author I'd suggest others read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    I loved this book of short stories. Although there were fourteen stories, they were not cookie cutter stories. It definitely did not feel like you were reading the same story over and over as some short story compilations do. Not only were the main characters strong but the secondary characters were given meaningful roles also. A couple of these stories have stuck with me. I think this is the first of Jones' writing that I have tried and I will definitely try other of his works. I loved this book of short stories. Although there were fourteen stories, they were not cookie cutter stories. It definitely did not feel like you were reading the same story over and over as some short story compilations do. Not only were the main characters strong but the secondary characters were given meaningful roles also. A couple of these stories have stuck with me. I think this is the first of Jones' writing that I have tried and I will definitely try other of his works.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    Such a rich tapestry of story telling, mostly about members of the generation of those of the great migration who settle in Washington DC. Beautifully written, some quite haunting. Took a while since each story should be savored.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Libby

    I want to go ahead and review this so I can post it, even though I'm not done--and won't be for awhile. I just don't like this collection of stories very much. I feel bad about this, because it has gotten rave reviews and won awards, but it just doesn't appeal to me. I got through 5 and 1/2 of the 14 stories, and of those, the one I've only read half of is the one I liked the best (it was just so depressing that I didn't finish it). ALL of the stories have been depressing, and in most of them, I d I want to go ahead and review this so I can post it, even though I'm not done--and won't be for awhile. I just don't like this collection of stories very much. I feel bad about this, because it has gotten rave reviews and won awards, but it just doesn't appeal to me. I got through 5 and 1/2 of the 14 stories, and of those, the one I've only read half of is the one I liked the best (it was just so depressing that I didn't finish it). ALL of the stories have been depressing, and in most of them, I didn't like the characters very much. Finally, there is much more emphasis on characterization and description than on plot, and I still really like plot. I like characterization, but I have to like the characters to appreciate good characterization (what can I say, I have low brow tastes). Sigh. I don't intend to give up on this book. It's still on my nightstand. However, I have found that pregnancy makes me even less tolerant of depressing books than I normally am, so I think I need to wait until the new baby arrives to try to finish. Finally, one note about my use of the word "depressing." I don't necessarily mean books where bad things happen or that don't end happily (although I will admit to being partial to happy endings). I know that in real life, bad things happen and endings are not always happy, and it makes sense that literature often reflects this. However, that doesn't mean that people/characters can't and don't rise above the awful-ness that life often throws at them, and I just didn't feel like any of these characters did. I'll revisit my opinion when I revisit the book. 3/2/20 I gave my copy away. I just don't want to go back to it. Declaring this one abandoned.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Texbritreader

    The stories collected here offer a portrait of our nation's capital through the eyes and experiences of a varied group of African Americans who call it home. Jones offers up different types: doctors, retired civil servants, schoolchildren but also women-beaters, drug-users, and other ne'er-do-wells. He fleshes out the life of the city through the tales of these citizens creating a richly layered construction of reasonable verisimilitude, with a few dashes of the magical but for me something was The stories collected here offer a portrait of our nation's capital through the eyes and experiences of a varied group of African Americans who call it home. Jones offers up different types: doctors, retired civil servants, schoolchildren but also women-beaters, drug-users, and other ne'er-do-wells. He fleshes out the life of the city through the tales of these citizens creating a richly layered construction of reasonable verisimilitude, with a few dashes of the magical but for me something was still lacking. Despite the precise details and careful plotting the collection often seemed artistically flat, leaving me with a sense of every bit of the working and reworking the author had employed to bring the stories to fruition. It is hard to find any specific failing, all the ingredients are there and Jones is a capable writer but somehow the stories lacked freshness. I found myself reading with the hope that something would spark at some point but alas that was not the case and I was left feeling like someone who had to settle for day old doughnuts. I could not say these stories are bad but, in all honesty, having enjoyed the author's novel, The Known World, I was disappointed.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael Anson

    I don't read too many collections of short stories, but Edward Jones, winner of the Pulitzer for his novel, "The Known World," is a master storyteller. Hagar is a biblical figure. She was the slave of Sarah who was married to Abraham, and Sarah thought she was too old to have children so she sent Hagar to Abraham, and they had a child named Ishmael. Later, Sarah did have a child named Isaac, who was supposed to be the one sent to make Abraham the father of all nations. Ishmael was banished to th I don't read too many collections of short stories, but Edward Jones, winner of the Pulitzer for his novel, "The Known World," is a master storyteller. Hagar is a biblical figure. She was the slave of Sarah who was married to Abraham, and Sarah thought she was too old to have children so she sent Hagar to Abraham, and they had a child named Ishmael. Later, Sarah did have a child named Isaac, who was supposed to be the one sent to make Abraham the father of all nations. Ishmael was banished to the desert where it is believed he became the father of the Arabs. Using the name Hagar, directly comments on the legacy of slavery, and the voice given to the voiceless. In the fourteen short stories, we learn about African-Americans and their culture in contemporary Washington, DC. He writes using a deft hand, writing about a sense of the magical, creating worlds few of us can imagine. That's the true strength of his work. It ransports us to another time and place.

  27. 4 out of 5

    J.C. Ryan

    It's been a while since I read this, but I'm putting it here, now. When I learned Edward P. Jones writes in this kind of monkish, secluded state for a week to a few months, it made perfect sense. He has these greater motifs that he threads carefully into these short-but-feel-long stories where he keys in details with flashbacks and flash-forwards in a way that reads seamlessly but, in reality, is doing all this work to make each story actually feel like a world. On careful reading, you can key i It's been a while since I read this, but I'm putting it here, now. When I learned Edward P. Jones writes in this kind of monkish, secluded state for a week to a few months, it made perfect sense. He has these greater motifs that he threads carefully into these short-but-feel-long stories where he keys in details with flashbacks and flash-forwards in a way that reads seamlessly but, in reality, is doing all this work to make each story actually feel like a world. On careful reading, you can key into certain spiritual themes that make for a whole dimension of depth I really enjoyed. I don't have any real sense of what Jones was going for in so much as 'tone' is concerned. Where the author stands and what he was going for remain in a state of mystery for me, but it doesn't feel unsatisfying. In a way it defines the thing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    You might not hate this book, so give it a chance. I read about half of it in November or so, returned it to the library, and checked it out again because I don't like leaving things unfinished. Maybe if I was familiar with DC, the way the Jones describes the surroundings by saying things like "K street between 13th and 14th" or whatever instead of telling us "there's a gas station on the corner, and the rest of the block is row houses" wouldn't bother me so much because I'd already have a menta You might not hate this book, so give it a chance. I read about half of it in November or so, returned it to the library, and checked it out again because I don't like leaving things unfinished. Maybe if I was familiar with DC, the way the Jones describes the surroundings by saying things like "K street between 13th and 14th" or whatever instead of telling us "there's a gas station on the corner, and the rest of the block is row houses" wouldn't bother me so much because I'd already have a mental picture of it. Really, most of the time I felt the book could have been written by Mapquest. At least, that's the overwhelming impression I'm left with.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Jones has a way of making history a part of the present; these short stories are dense, and each story seems to tell many stories besides the one which is its focus. I'm not sure I'm doing a good job of getting across the feel of these stories: they each seem to have such a weight to them; all of his characters carry not only their present moments, but their pasts and their possible futures around with them, and Jones makes the reader feel this. For the most part, these stories are centered arou Jones has a way of making history a part of the present; these short stories are dense, and each story seems to tell many stories besides the one which is its focus. I'm not sure I'm doing a good job of getting across the feel of these stories: they each seem to have such a weight to them; all of his characters carry not only their present moments, but their pasts and their possible futures around with them, and Jones makes the reader feel this. For the most part, these stories are centered around perfectly ordinary moments, and this is the other part of what I loved about the book: none of these ordinary moments, or ordinary people, feels ordinary.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Gallaway

    This collection of stories deals with many of the same themes as Jones' other collection -- namely the African-American experience as it unfolds in and around Washington, D.C. I found the prose of this collection to be denser and infused with more symbolism (some biblical, as the title suggests) and at times, magical elements, in comparison to Lost in the City. I would definitely recommend it as much as Lost in the City, but I think it would be smart to read this one after you've been introduced This collection of stories deals with many of the same themes as Jones' other collection -- namely the African-American experience as it unfolds in and around Washington, D.C. I found the prose of this collection to be denser and infused with more symbolism (some biblical, as the title suggests) and at times, magical elements, in comparison to Lost in the City. I would definitely recommend it as much as Lost in the City, but I think it would be smart to read this one after you've been introduced into Jones' world. Jones is really a master at making daily life, with its minor disappointments and cruelties (and the occasional joy) feel crushingly/euphorically epic.

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