- Small Marvels
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Published by: Indiana University Press
In Limestone, Indiana, a city tucked away among forested hills, peculiar things happen, often in the vicinity of a jack-of-all-trades named Gordon Mills. Centaurs and nymphs shelter in a local cave, alligators lurk in the sewers, warm snow falls on the Fourth of July, cornstalks rise higher than chimneys, and the northern lights shine down on the municipal dump.
Gordon takes such events in stride and deals with them as part of his work on the city maintenance crew. He earns just enough to support a boisterous family, which includes his formidable wife Mabel, their four children, Mabel's parents, and his widowed mother—nine souls packed into an old house that falls apart as fast as Gordon can fix it.
Part folktale, part tall tale, part comic romance, Small Marvels revels in the wonders of everyday life. So, welcome to Limestone, Indiana. You won't find it on a map, but you may remember visiting the place in dreams, the rare, blissful ones in which puzzles are solved, kids flourish, hard work pays off, and love endures.
Scott Russell Sanders is the author of more than 20 books of fiction, essays, and personal narrative, including Hunting for Hope, A Conservationist Manifesto, Dancing in Dreamtime, and Earth Works: Selected Essays. His most recent book is The Way of Imagination, a reflection on healing and renewal in a time of social and environmental upheaval. Based in Bloomington, Indiana, he is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
"This book is a marvel indeed—a charming, improbably generous portrait of the pleasures of small-town life and enduring values. Simultaneously funny, rueful, nostalgic, and wry, these stories embrace hope and endurance, finding the miraculous bound up in the mundane. As one character says, 'Earth was home to more marvels than he could take in.'"~Erin McGraw, author of Joy and 52 Other Very Short Stories
"Like the stories of Jim Heynen or Wendell Berry, the missives found in Scott Russell Sanders's Small Marvels are finely finished finishes of bulletins and billet-doux that lap and layer 'place' into Place, creating a depth by means of gritty sanding and steel-wooled buffing on what was once the flat and dull surface of the world's old spoil. America's drama has always been between mobility and stability. These deadpan understated dispatches from the striations of Limestone are all about the staunch staying, and these tales sculpt, indeed, poetic stays against the entropic confusion found in all our hyperkinetic need for the getting up and the going."~Michael Martone, author of The Complete Writings of Art Smith, The Bird Boy of Fort Wayne, Edited by Michael Martone and The Moon Over Wapakoneta
"There is nothing small about this epic, large-hearted, greatly imagined book. Of all of his serious books on the fate of our earth, this may be Sanders's most honest of all, a brave look at the realities of a struggling life in a literal holy landscape. We need this poignant, deeply comical book to remind us what a good time we can have after all in this world, right at home, with each other, in the most basic and fantastic of ways."~Barbara Mossberg, author of Here for the Present, professor of Literature and Leadership at the University of Oregon
"Scott Russell Sanders, being a wise man who agonizes over the sinking of our traditional virtues, uses his great storytelling skills to keep buoying them up. In Small Marvels, he reminds us of the values of honest work, unselfishness, and wholesome family devotion, not by preaching but by pulling us into warm, funny, whimsical stories about the poor but happy family of Gordon Mills, a homely jack-of-all-trades who can leave no good deed undone. Gordon is the worthiest poor-folks' hero I've seen since Wendell Berry's unforgettable Jayber Crow."~James Alexander Thom, author of Fire in the Water
"Scott Russell Sanders's newest book, Small Marvels, makes me feel better about the world. Each story from the lives of Gordon Mills and his family is a gift and the collection as a whole is a balm for the heart and spirit. In a time of uncertainty and division, Gordon (who is part mechanic, part everyday mystic) and his very human, always entertaining family, reminds us of all that is still right in the world and shines a light on what is luminous and extraordinary in an ordinary day. Scott Russell Sanders has a beautiful constellation of works, I have loved all I've encountered, and Small Marvels is truly another bright star."~Carrie Newcomer, songwriter, author of Until Now, The Beautiful Not Yet, Until Now: New Poems
"Scott Russell Sanders's Small Miracles is its own kind of miracle, a contemporary work of short fiction where the protagonist, Gordon Mills, quietly repairs the work of entropy with love and kindness, a ready set of a handyman's tools, and an unshakable faith in community. I love this character, his family, and the town of Limestone, Indiana, a place reminiscent of Wendell Berry's Port Williams, that they call home. "~Susan Neville, author of The Town of Whispering Dolls
"When I first heard Scott tell a story, I prayed the day would come he'd write a book of them, and here it is! In Small Marvels, eloquence, humor, and magic mingle together in a delicious blend. Limestone, Indiana, will no doubt take its place in the landscape of Hoosier legends."~Philip Gulley, author of the Harmony Series
"Scott Russell Sanders has created a literature encompassing the natural world, our sense of place, and the ways in which we can build community that lasts. This collection of linked stories about an unwieldy, yet loving family in what might, at first glance, seem like the middle of nowhere is a tender addition to a generous body of work."~David Hoppe, author of Midcentury Boy
"Joyful, whimsical and lovely."~Katie Noah Gibson, Cakes, Tea and Dreams
"Small Marvels is an evocative short story collection that tickles the imagination as it explores the magic of a Midwestern town."~Foreword Reviews
"Essayist and nature writer Scott Russell Sanders returns to fiction in his joyous, whimsical novel-in-stories, Small Marvels. The collection follows the life of Gordon Mills, a city maintenance worker in small-town Indiana, and the adventures of his loving, rambunctious family. Told in Sanders's signature rambling prose, the 24 stories recount the joys and travails of Gordon's career and family life: an overstuffed house in need of constant repair, cranky teenagers and aging parents, his own aching back. But the 'small marvels' of the title await around every corner, whether it's seeing the northern lights improbably gleam over the city dump or the pleasure of watching birds flock to a homemade yard feeder. Sanders (Dancing in Dreamtime) sprinkles his stories with quotidian wonders, placing his characters in humdrum situations where magic flashes unexpectedly. In brief vignettes with one-word titles, Sanders explores mundane challenges, such as the tight finances of a large household, and more esoteric ones, like the group of centaurs and dragons that take shelter in a local cave. With his wife, Mabel—a sturdy, practical woman—Gordon manages to keep his family fed and clothed, while also helping his four children through various growing pains. Charming and engaging without being twee, Small Marvels celebrates the simple joys of living in this world and the miracles, otherworldly or everyday, that wait for those who are willing to look. Sanders's portrayal of wonder in Gordon's world will inspire readers to look for magic in their own lives."~Shelf Awareness
"Please, find a copy of Small Marvels and embrace within it your personal moments of wonderment and joy, connections and discoveries, and the simple gift of love."~Rita Kohn, Nuvo
"The only thing wrong with Scott Russell Sanders's new collection of short stories, Small Marvels, is the title. For while many of the marvels that Sanders describes may be of the everyday sort— the birth of a child, the sounds of sandhill cranes wheeling overhead—there's nothing small about them. They're the kind of wonders that fill a life with awe, meaning, and love. . . . Sanders describes Gordon as having been "seized by grace." Sanders was clearly seized by the same grace when he wrote this magical collection."~Julie Gray, Bloom
Earth & Spirit NPR Podcast interviewWe Live in a Shared World: Scott Russell Sanders on Awe, Imagination, Compassion, Craft, and Community
Publishers Weekly SoapboxMaking Art in Dark Times
Writers Digest guest column5 Tips for Crafting a Novel-in-Stories
WRBH Reading RadioWriter's Forum: Scott Sanders
Excerpt on Terrain.org"Centaur"
Golden State Media Concepts PodcastEpisode 390: Interview with Scott Russell Sanders