The vast, unsettling landscape of the American Southwest is as much a character in Ryan Harty's debut collection, Bring Me Your Saddest Arizona, as the men and women who inhabit its award-winning stories. In eight vivid tales of real life in the west, Harty reminds us that life's greatest challenge may be to find the fine balance between desire and obligation.
A high school football player must make a choice between family and friends when his older brother commits an act of senseless violence. A middle-aged man must fly to Las Vegas to settle his dead sister's estate, only to discover that he must first confront his guilt over his sister's death. A young teacher tries to help a homeless girl, but, as their lives intertwine, he begins to understand that his generosity is motivated by his own relenting sense of lonliness. Well-intentioned but ultimately human, the characters in these stories often fall short of achieving grace. But the possibility of redemption, like the Sonoran Desert at the edge of Bring Me Your Saddest Arizona's suburban landscapes, is never far off. Harty's characters are as complicated as the people we know, and his vision of life in the west is as hopeful as it is strikingly real.
“Harty displays an incredibly assured sense of storytelling in his first book, grounding his stories in telling details, noble gestures, and a palpable sense of place. His stories will break your heart.”—Bookist, starred review
“The stark landscapes of the desert Southwest form the backdrop for Harty’s poignant and intelligent debut collection. . . . No one would call these stories uplifting, or optimistic, but they are all fully realized and elegantly told—and often quietly surprising. Harty excels at creating a three-dimensional desert suburbia populated by seeking, reaching characters, for whom happiness is always just a bit out of reach.”—Publishers Weekly
“In the tradition of American writers such as John Cheever and Philip K. Dick, who unflinchingly engaged the troubles of their time, Harty fearlessly and beautifully digs into the cracks of ours. His collection could as well be called ‘Bring Me Your Saddest America.’”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Harty’s stories are irresistable, beautiful things, well-honed and honest renderings of love, life and loss that stay with us long after the last word is read.”—San Diego Union-Tribune
“. . . glorious stories . . ”—Texas Observer
“Harty’s big-hearted stories are a pleasure to read.Bring Me Your Saddest Arizona is a promising debut from a writer who’s unafraid to offer characters yearning for an escape from lonliness, for release from grief.”—Tucson Weekly
“The desert exists as blazing limbo in Ryan Harty's Bring Me Your Saddest Arizona. Boys and women drive out of their abandoned pasts to see Phoenix glow like a revelation at the end of a highway. From Tumac to Tumacacori, along Toneleo Boulevard and Indian School Road, siblings as beautiful as movie stars go to war or disappear, heroes lose their way, and petty criminals reveal themselves in telling gestures of grace. Harty's southwestern, dark edge of suburbia characters are so believable we feel we know them. . . . Bring Me Your Saddest Arizona reveals a New West both haunted and shining, and Ryan Harty's quiet, cumulatively powerful voice, true in every detail and poignant tone, is unforgettable.“—Jayne Ann Phillips
“If there is such a thing as irresistible sadness, this collection possesses it; already, having finished it, I am nostalgic for this book. These stories are troublingly beautiful in the way the desert is, and will be about as easily forgotten.”—Elizabeth Tallent, author of Honey
“Love hurts—and Ryan Harty is here to count the ways. In these sharply observed, well-written stories, he gets below the surface of ordinary lives, where the heart can be felt. In Bring Me Your Saddest Arizona, Mr. Harty shows his gift of being smart and honest, and he reveals that looking for home in the suburbs is always a complicated search.”—Ron Carlson, author of The Speed of Light
2003 John Simmons Short Fiction Award