Award-winning author Elizabeth McCracken is an undisputed virtuoso of the short story, and this new collection features her most vibrant and heartrending work to date
In these stories, the mysterious bonds of family are tested, transformed, fractured, and fortified. A recent widower and his adult son ferry to a craggy Scottish island in search of puffins. An actress who plays a children’s game-show villainess ushers in the New Year with her deadbeat half brother. A mother, pining for her children, feasts on loaves of challah to fill the void. A new couple navigates a tightrope walk toward love. And on a trip to a Texas water park with their son, two fathers each confront a personal fear.
With sentences that crackle and spark and showcase her trademark wit, McCracken traces how our closely held desires—for intimacy, atonement, comfort—bloom and wither against the indifferent passing of time. Her characters embark on journeys that leave them indelibly changed—and so do her readers. The Souvenir Museum showcases the talents of one of our finest contemporary writers as she tenderly takes the pulse of our collective and individual lives.
About the Author
Elizabeth McCracken is the author of seven books, including The Souvenir Museum, Bowlaway, Thunderstruck & Other Stories (winner of the 2014 Story Prize and long-listed for the National Book Award), and The Giant’s House (a National Book Award finalist). Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, won three Pushcart Prizes, a National Magazine Award, and an O. Henry Prize. She has served on the faculty at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently holds the James Michener Chair for Fiction at the University of Texas at Austin.
“This incisive, warm-blooded collection of stories is populated by outsiders: expatriates and repatriates, Vikings, travelling ventriloquists. . . . Whether it’s over the course of a honeymoon in Amsterdam or a day at a Texas water park, McCracken illuminates qualities of human nature through fragments of her characters’ lives.” — The New Yorker
“Charming and sly, these 12 far-flung stories—from a Texas water park to a rugged Scottish island—share McCracken’s tender appreciation for flawed people (struggling lovers, a grieving mother, a puppeteer) just trying to communicate.” — People
“Elizabeth McCracken’s impressive third story collection evoke moving depictions of marriage and parenthood, and love, betrayal, and loneliness…A steady stream of exquisite writing.” — The Boston Globe
“The Souvenir Museum is McCracken's third story collection, and her understanding of how we stumble up against these painful realities unfurls on every page. Tuned into absurdities and disasters, she knows our losses are calamitous, our connections precarious…McCracken's prose is wry and exquisite, a good companion to her generous, comic observations.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune
“You know how Aaron Sorkin tilt-shifts reality to bring idealism to the forefront? McCracken is like that but for humor. In her realm, everything is funny — to somebody, if not always to the protagonist. Even the darkest and saddest moments may be laced with sweet, tall-tale absurdity. Her new collection The Souvenir Museum has more of what made her 2019 novel Bowlaway such a hit. It’s full of stories set in the real world but just cockeyed enough to pass as apocryphal family folklore told at a Thanksgiving dinner table once everybody’s full of pie and wine.” — Philadelphia Inquirer
“McCracken knows all kinds of subtle, enticing secrets of the heart and conveys them in silky, transparent language.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“If you’re tired of trying to pick something to watch on one of your half a dozen streaming services, maybe it’s time to read a short story instead. They may just be the perfect antidote to binge watching. Elizabeth McCracken’s latest collection ‘The Souvenir Museum,’ is a good place to start….Do yourself a favor and read the book. McCracken has delivered a lovely collection of stories.” — Associated Press
“Deftly melding tragedy and comedy, McCracken displays her signature wit while examining how the bonds of family are tested and transformed over time.” — Austin Monthly
“McCracken, herself, is a hard-working performer, an acrobat who dazzles with her verbal flexibility and lands the end of each tightly composed story with incredible skill — and feeling. Her inimitable images heighten the delight…McCracken's writing is never dull…[a]fantastic collection.” — NPR.org
“Elizabeth McCracken’s latest (and best, so far) collection…there is, in these stories, a kind of compulsive noticing, and the resultant prose is so plush that it may be read happily for the language alone, though there is much more at work here….a novel’s worth of humor, tension, love, sorrow, and irrationality.” — Harvard Review
“Wry, emotionally complex family stories. . . . McCracken is a tremendously sharp, soulful, and witty writer, rightfully considered one of finest American short story practitioners at work today.” — Literary Hub
"I love short stories, I think that we’re not reading enough of them . . . [Elizabeth McCracken] is one of my favorites . . . her stories are about family and redemption, intimacy…Dive into this collection.” — Harlan Coben (on Today)
“The master stylist and author of Bowlaway rolls another strike with this magnificent array of idiosyncratic love stories.” — Oprah Daily
“Elizabeth McCracken is a master of the short story and each of the stories in this gem of a collection shows a different facet of the human experience, shining all the brighter for having had McCracken's attention paid to it for a little while.” — Refinery 29
“[A]n assured collection… McCracken opens up worlds in a mere sentence, and every page is illuminated with nuanced observations of human behavior.” — Booklist
“McCracken’s sly, emotionally complex collection (after Bowlaway) focuses on characters uprooted from their usual surroundings. . . . Each story opens to reveal a whole life spent within the web of a family, chosen or not. Full of gems, this collection is a winner.” — Publishers Weekly(starred review)
“McCracken . . . proves her mastery of short fiction with these 12 tightly structured, searingly realistic stories. . . . Enduring love—along with the urge to resist it—is this volume’s common theme, whether in relationships between parents and children, lovers, ex-lovers, friends, and even in-laws. . . . An astonishingly powerful collection worth multiple readings.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The 12 stories collected in Elizabeth McCracken's The Souvenir Museum are skillfully crafted miniatures that feature unfailingly ordinary characters whose lives she uses to illuminate truths about love, longing and the elusive search for connection…The personal discoveries unearthed by characters like these may seem inconsequential, but they are anything but that. They're the stories of choices, turning points and epiphanies that are the stuff of life itself, and of indelible moments Elizabeth McCracken preserves in these unpretentious tales…In a dozen stories, Elizabeth McCracken excels at capturing the kinds of moments that often escape our notice.” — Shelf Awareness
“There’s good reason a new Elizabeth McCracken book is cause for celebration: everything she writes—her short stories, her novels, and, hey, also a memoir—is consistently brilliant. Her work is the perfect amount of odd, witty, tender, and deceptively heart-splitting. I can’t wait.” — The Millions