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Andrea Barrett

Author of The Voyage of the Narwhal

17+ Works 4,693 Members 130 Reviews 31 Favorited

About the Author

Andrea Barrett was born on July 17, 1965. She has taught in the M.F.A. program for writers at Warren Wilson College, and has been a visiting writer at several other colleges and universities, as well as teaching frequently at conferences such as the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. She writes short show more stories and novels. Her short story collections include Servants of the Map, Archangel, and Ship Fever and Other Stories, which won the National Book Award in 1996 for the short story collection. She received the Distinguished Story Citation from Best American Short Stories in 1995 for The Littoral Zone and the 2015 Rea Award for the Short Story. Her short fiction has appeared in periodicals such as Mademoiselle and Prairie Schooner. Her novels include The Voyage of the Narwhal, Lucid Stars, Secret Harmonies, The Middle Kingdom, and The Forms of Water. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Works by Andrea Barrett

Associated Works

Tono-Bungay (1909) — Introduction, some editions — 1,109 copies
The Best American Short Stories 2001 (2001) — Contributor — 534 copies
The Best American Essays 2005 (2005) — Contributor — 339 copies
The Best American Short Stories 1995 (1995) — Contributor — 298 copies
The Best American Short Stories 2016 (2016) — Contributor — 248 copies
The Best American Science Writing 2005 (2005) — Contributor — 190 copies
The Writer's Notebook II: Craft Essays from Tin House (2012) — Contributor — 37 copies
Birds in the Hand: Fiction and Poetry about Birds (2004) — Contributor — 32 copies
The Second Penguin Book of Modern Women's Short Stories (1997) — Contributor — 25 copies
American Short Fiction, Spring 1991 (1991) — Contributor — 3 copies


Common Knowledge



The first story in this collection, 'The Behavior of the Hawkweeds', was in Best American Short Stories, where I read it and immediately sought out more by Andrea Barrett. I wasn't disappointed with this book.

In 'Rare Bird', it's 1762 and we meet Sarah Anne, "who inherited her father's brains but Christopher [her brother] inherited everything else". She's intelligent, single, interested in science and learning but held back by being a woman. She does find ways to write and to experiment, and does manage to change her situation in an interesting way.

The novella that gives this book its title is a story of the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s. It seems to end well for a few people who make their way to Canada, but I did not read every part of it.
My favorite was 'The Marburg Sisters', about Rose and Bianca, and is in turns realistic, surreal, and philosophical as they grow to adulthood, go their separate ways, meet again in mid-twentieth century America, then once more part, but remain still connected.

Barrett writes with a sure hand, giving us fiction that is easy to believe is all truth.
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mykl-s | 25 other reviews | Aug 19, 2023 |
When Zeke came back my heart sank - there was just no good that could come from him and his way of stealing all the happiness in a room for himself. I slammed the book down and walked away, and it took me three days to sufficiently nerve myself for whatever was to come.

When Dr. Boerhaave died my heart broke for him and also for Erasmus, who was just beginning to see the beauty of having a dear friend. When Erasmus got the letter from one of the doctor's other friends, and that friend called the doctor by his first name, I felt Erasmus's sadness and shame that his priceless friendship apparently hadn't even made it out of stage 1. Who among us hasn't been crushed by the knowledge that someone is more important to us than we are to them.

When the author described how the doctor's drowned head had washed up on the cliff below the men's camp, and that they simply didn't look over, nor did they hear the wind whistling across the jawbone, I gasped. The way that she showed us something that could have been life-altering for Erasmus but wasn't, how she played with going past coincidence into far-fetchedness BUT DIDN'T, was brilliant.

Wonderful wonderful wonderful book.
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blueskygreentrees | 36 other reviews | Jul 30, 2023 |
The Voyage of the Narwhal is so schematic, with the standard revelations (the oppressed heroine has to break out of society's conventions in order to follow her artistic dreams) and standard poetic stretches. There's lots of nice details about the food and the tedium and the illness -- each of the characters is a little raft of tactile human misery -- but these human details are often swamped by the impersonal flood of Important Themes and Momentous Symbolism. There are sections where the writing is perfectly lovely and clean and spare; there are other spots where sentences threaten to buckle under the weight of abrupt epiphanies.… (more)
proustbot | 36 other reviews | Jun 19, 2023 |
Not absolutely primo Voyage of the Narwhal Barrett, but I always love her golden age of science exploration subject matter and how she treats it, so I was happy.
lisapeet | 2 other reviews | Jun 19, 2023 |



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