By: Flannery O’Connor
Wowie. Flannery O’Connor is dark.
A Good Man Is Hard to Find is a collection of short stories, and also – a bit confusingly – the name of one of the short stories in said collection. I had read a few of O’Connor’s short stories before, so I wasn’t going in totally blind. But still.
Flannery O’Connor is one of the queens of the short story. Her work is well-loved, well-respected, and well-read. A Good Man Is Hard to Find is a c.l.a.s.s.i.c. It’s so good. So good.
I think what’s so fun about O’Connor in spite of the dark nature of her stories is that every single story has a wild twist ending. An out of left field turn. You think you know where a story is going. You follow along, you laugh along, you critique humanity right along with O’Connor, think you know what’s coming and to who. But you are wrong. Every time.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
O’Connor’s stories are chock full of religion, bigotry, karma, and richly drawn characters. O’Connor is subversive and shocking, but always honest. She’s hilarious and horrifying and engaging. Most of her stories are set in the rural south and feature a not-so-likable matriarch or a child who throws reality back in your face and calls it like it is. O’Connor has a brilliant way of writing inside these southern women’s heads as their thoughts flit back and forth between family and keeping up appearances and work and religion and justifying their own prejudices. It would be so funny if it weren’t so astonishingly sad.
And yet, you don’t walk away from O’Connor feeling defeated and hopeless. She has a mysterious power of leaving you uncomfortable and shocked, but still very much entertained and ready and willing to read more.
You don’t have to be into short stories to be into O’Connor. Each story reads like a richly developed chapter in the novel of life – sorry to be cheesy about it, but O’Connor feels familiar and close to home in eerie ways. I highly recommend a headfirst dive into the twisted, remarkable world that O’Connor is reflecting back at us. You won’t be let down.
If you’re a Flannery fan, here are some suggestions:
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks
(for more short story collections)
The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway
Cakewalk by Lee Smith
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
(for more by O’Connor)
Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor
The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor
Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor
A Prayer Journal by Flannery O’Connor
Ground Rules by Renee Swann
Life and Times of Jesse James by Frank Triplett
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle