Nothing Right

Nelson, Antonya. Nothing Right: short stories. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009.

Antonya Nelson’s humor comes at you in a slow and subtle way, almost like a Mona Lisa sly smirk. The entire collection of short stories is what a peepshow is to an adolescent boy; the reader is allowed in the living rooms and lives of the characters for only so long before the curtain is dropped and the scene goes dark. Nothing Right leaves you wanting more and always asking, “what happened next?” The perfect hook for a sequel. The one drawback to leaving so much to the imagination? The characters didn’t stay long enough for me to truly garner an interest in them personally. I wanted to know what happened next in terms of plot but not character. All of the stories circle around family dynamics; the good, the bad and most certainly, the ugly.

  • “Nothing Right” (title story) starts tongue-in-cheek although the reader is yet to see the irony. Hannah stares at brochures about taking care of babies while her own baby, 15 year old trouble-maker Leo, sees the district attorney¬† about a bomb threat he made at school. Hannah’s troubles only deepen when Leo goes on to father a child…
  • “Party of One” is a rather bizarre story about a woman trying to convince a married man to end his affair…with her sister.
  • “Obo” bothered me the most. I didn’t understand Abby at all. A pathological liar, she convinces her professor to take her to his wife’s family home for Christmas; all because she has fallen in love with the professor’s wife.
  • “Falsetto” – Michelle tries to cope with her parents’s devastating car accident while caring for her much younger brother and simultaneously re-evaluating her perfect relationship with her boyfriend.
  • “Kansas” is about a family’s drama when 17 year-old niece Kay-Kay disappears with her three year-old cousin.
  • “Biodegradable” is about a married woman who has an affair with a scientist.
  • “DWI” is about a married woman who loses her lover in a drunk-driving accident.
  • “Shauntrelle” is about a married woman who admits to an affair thinking her lover will be happy with taking her in. She is wrong and loses both men.
  • “Or Else” is about a man who misses the life he had with his childhood friend’s family so much that he pretends he is still part of their lives.
  • “We and They” is about a family in competition with their neighbors until they adopt a child who sides with the enemy.
  • People People” is about two sisters who couldn’t be any more different from one another.


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