Jennifer Davis’ stories explore with gentle understanding the lives of women and men, girls and boys who live in a New South landscape of golf courses gone to seed, faded lake houses, and BMWs and F-150s in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot. They’ve been left behind after the land speculators and the lawyers and doctors and their kids who come for the summer go home to Birmingham and Atlanta, off-seasons as teenagers stretching into lifetimes waiting for someone or something to give them a good reason to leave. Their inertia allows Davis the time to examine deftly why we choose to stay when we know it would be better to go, how even the subtle pull of a home to which we feel little connection can make escape feel impossible—examinations that have the vivid clarity of a William Christenberry photograph. We Were Angry is something special.
—Josh Russell, author of King of the Animals and Yellow Jack
The characters in We Were Angry are alive with wit, grit, and heart. Their desires and dilemmas became my own as I read. In her imagery and language, Davis writes beautifully and without flinching. Each story contains a whole world, and I found myself immersed in every one. This is a remarkable collection.
—Olivia Clare Friedman, author of Here Lies and Disasters in the First World
Davis has a unique capacity to capture the savageness of ordinary life and see the tenderness embedded there, too. That so much of this big world—its love and ambition, its frustration and loneliness—can be reflected back to us in the guise of a small Alabama town and its inhabitants is a testament to Davis's keen eye, both for the specificity of place and the universal need for human connection.
—Emily Nemens, author of The Cactus League
Jennifer Davis’s new collection is breathtaking in its intensity, in the emotional heat in these pages, the sheer weight of love and longing and loss. It’s set in Alabama, but these characters might live anywhere hearts break and life doesn’t turn out the way we dream it, the place as deeply felt and alive as the people and rendered by a world class short story writer at the top of her game.
—Michael Knight, author of Evening Land and At Briarwood School for Girls
No need to imagine what would happen to the decidely northern narratives of Dr. Chekov and Alice Munro if they took a flyer south and wrote their telescoping and telescopic deep depth-defying stories in the humid humus here Below the Bug Line. Jennifer S. Davis in her righteiously rambunctious rigmarole of a book, We Were Angry, has done all that. Davis has put her indefatigable intaglio fevered frankness, a New Southern nuance, into her own special gothically etched canceled postage stamp of peopled place. This book is the next Love Medicine, cast with characters erratically estatic, gravely grave, and articulate in their own inarticulateness.They are all graced with a fiery grace and even as we watch their burned-off, burned-over, ever exhuasted virtues and vices dissipate into spectacularly occluded skies, everything (every goddamn thing) stings and sings.
—Michael Martone, author of Plain Air and Four for a Quarter
Flannery O’Connor once said that writing fiction is not an escape from reality but a plunge into it, and no doubt Jennifer S. Davis would wholeheartedly agree. Her stunning linked collection We Were Angry plunges us deeply into the reality of small-town Alabama life and its effects on the people who grow up there. Even those who eventually leave the town can never escape it. “While it’s true you can never go home,” one such character says, “you never really go anywhere else.” As great as O’Connor is, she tends to approach her characters like a prosecuting attorney, exposing their crimes of thought, word, and deed in order to “convict” them, but Davis approaches her characters more like a defense attorney, tempering her clear-eyed portrayal of them with powerful empathy and understanding, even love. She writes, as Chekhov said we should, with both a cold eye and a warm heart. Reader, prepare yourself for a plunge into reality that is as tender as it is devastating.
—David Jauss, author of Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories and Nice People: New & Selected Stories II