Publication Day: Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger by Lee Smith

I made the mistake of picking up Lee Smith’s latest collection of short stories, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger, the week before a huge test in my Prehistoric Life class.   I should have known that after twelve novels, four collections of short stories, and multiple awards, Lee Smith would be dangerous to my grade.  Lesson learned.  Needless to say, Pre-Cambrian seashells took a back seat to these beautifully-crafted stories.  They’re both hilarious and heartbreaking, often at the same time.  Lee Smith’s characters are  English teachers, newspaper columnists, secretaries, and waitresses at truck stops.  They shop at Piggly-Wiggly and sell Mary Kay products.  They’re as real and familiar as the folks at your bus stop, but in Lee Smith’s world there’s no such thing as ordinary.  Every one of her characters is indomitable, smart, flawed, emotionally complex, and rendered with unfailing warmth and respect.  This book succeeds at what most books aspire to– it makes you love humanity a little more than you did before you picked it up. I can’t recommend Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger highly enough.  Lucky for you, it’s now out in paperback!  Please just buy it, but do yourself a favor and wait until after the test.

Jordan Castelloe

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Praise for Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger:

“Smith’s heroines find strength in the moments that push us all forward.”–People, 4-star review

“Smith’s character-driven tales are funny, touching, and resonant, with a quirky honesty.” —Family Circle

“Lee Smith has long had a reputation as a master of the short story, and her new collection . . . galvanizes that reputation … Smith offers the grit of the domestic scene, the power of the written word . . . We care for her characters, especially at the moment when one distilled event irrevocably alters everything. At the end, we are there, celebrating their strong and certain victories of the heart.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Like Chekhov, Smith can lay out a world of social and personal connections in a few pages . . . Funny, shrewd, and heartbreaking–often all three at once.” –AARP magazine

“Delicious writing . . . Smith offers stories that deliver an irresistible one-two punch. The first punch is . . . the humor that fills every page . . . The second punch is the meaningfulness of every story.” —Booklist, starred review

“These stories are classic Lee Smith–each one alert to the moment of change, deftly built with a deeply comic sense of timing, and taut with compressed energy that most certainly will burst out of bounds.”–Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun

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Listen to Lee Smith read an excerpt from “Toastmaster”

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