Nona Caspers - Heavier Than Air

Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction
New York Times Editors’ Choice

University of Massachusetts Press

Cover artwork by Celeste Nelmes.

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The New York Times Book Review, February 18, 2007

Editors' Choice: Books of Particular Interest, February 25, 2007

"Throughout this collection, which was plucked from a pile of 300 manuscripts and awarded the Grace Paley Prize in short fiction, Caspers details the many ways reality can interfere with our dreams. Not surprisingly, dissatisfaction becomes a dominant theme. One of the best stories, 'Mr. Hellerman's Vacation,' takes place mainly in the occupational and group therapy units of a hospital and features a protagonist who ‘always wanted a set of trained snow dogs and sled; instead he got a series of farm dogs, pleasant rangy mutts that followed him in and out of the barn and got run over in the driveway.' During his recuperation from an exhaustion-induced breakdown, he becomes preoccupied by an existential question: 'Does he own the farm or does the farm own him?' Many of Caspers's stories are set in Minnesota's cattle and dairy country, and all of them traffic in the kind of Midwestern realism that doesn't rely on pyrotechnics to generate dramatic heat. Throughout, Caspers's people—it's difficult to consider some of them mere characters—question the decisions they've made or the ones they refuse to make. There's nothing flashy about Caspers's prose; like the beauty of the prairie itself, its attraction lies in details seen up close."