American Grief in Four Stages is a collection of stories that imagines trauma as a space in which language fails us and narrative escapes us. These stories play with form and explore the impossibility of elegy and the inability of our culture to communicate grief, or sympathy, outside of cliché.
One narrator, for example, tries to understand her brother’s suicide by excavating his use of idioms. Other stories construe grief and trauma in much subtler ways—the passing of an era or of a daughter’s childhood, the seduction of a neighbor, the inability to have children. From a dinner party with Aztecs to an elderly shut-in’s recollection of her role in the Salem witch trials, these are stories that defy expectations and enrich the imagination. As a whole, this collection asks the reader to envisage the ways in which we suffer as both unbearably painful and unbearably American.
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Early Praise for American Grief in Four Stages:
“Sadie Hoagland’s stories are hard and bright as the twenty-first century, but with reflections that radiate into subtle chiaroscuro. She’s a startlingly fresh new writer, American Grief in Four Stages is a debut that will be remembered.” — Madison Smartt Bell, author of ALL SOULS’ RISING
"This terrifying brave collection takes the sting out of what happens when the worst has already occurred "
— Foreword Reviews
“As riveting as short fiction gets.”
— Jacob M. Appel, author of THE AMAZING MR. MORALITY
In a polygamist commune in the desert, a sixteen-year- old boy and a twelve-year-old girl fall in love and consummate that love, breaking religious law. They are caught, and a year later, she gives birth to his father’s child while the boy commits murder four hundred miles away—a crime that will slowly unravel the community.
Told by eight adolescent narrators, this is a story of how people use faith to justify cruelty, and how redemption can come from unexpected places. Though seemingly powerless in the face of their fundamentalist religion, these “strange children” shift into the central framework of their world as they come of age.
“Harrowing and tender, this fiercely intense, exquisitelycomposed novel transports us from an isolated polygamist community in the wild desert of southern Utah to the bewildering buzz and glitter of urban streets in Salt Lake City, from the raptures of adolescent love to the violent extremes of sexual obsession. If we are biased, if we cling to comfortable misconceptions about people who live beyond our experience, these magnificently beautiful children will pierce and transfigure us.” —Melanie Rae Thon, author of Silence and Song
"I admire Strange Children for its mythic grandeur, its intoxicating cadences. This is a novel about a world unraveling, a desert place illuminated by the vulnerable young who belong to it—a place of child brides and murder, predation and exile, solace and exultation. Sadie Hoagland’s heart is spacious and her sentences are marvelously lush."—Noy Holland, author of Bird
“Extra Patriotic.” South Carolina Review, February 2019
“Frog Prince.” South Dakota Review, February 2019
“Origins.” The Fabulist, October 2018
“American Grief.” COG, October 2017
“Dementia, 1692.” Santa Fe Writer’s Project, October 2016
“Strange Children.” (An Excerpt). Slush Pile Magazine, March 2016
“Fucking Aztecs.” Oyez Review, March 2015
“Cavalier Presentation of Heartbreaking News.” Grist Journal, March 2015
“In July Flags Are Everywhere.” South Dakota Review, March 2015
“Time Just Isn’t That Simple.” Alice Blue Review, October 2013
“American Family Portrait.” The Black Herald, September 2012
“Warning Signs.” Mikrokosmos Journal, October 2012
“The Crossword.” Slush Pile Magazine, Summer 2009
“Here, Then Gone.” A Fragmented Essay. Five Points, June 2018
“Nine Stories.” An Essay in Pantoum Form. Passages North, February 2017
“Female Coffee Growers Find New Freedoms.” Women’s E-news, May 2006
“West Side Pride.” Salt Lake City Weekly, May 2006
“Fisher People.” Catalyst Magazine, September 2004
“Missing the Grade.” Salt Lake City Weekly, December 2004
"The Castle.” Sakura Review, Fall 2015
“Dementia, 1692.” Santa Fe Writer’s Project, September 2017
Review of The Forgetting Tree: A Rememory. By Rae Paris (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2017. Pp xi + 154, acknowledgements, prelude, postlude, thanks, note. $18.99, paper). Arkansas Review, December 2018
“All Lit Up: A Review of Negative Spaces, Stories by Nate Liederbach,” Quarterly West, May 2014
American Grief in Four Stages