What People are Saying

It’s Not Going to Kill You, and Other Stories:

“There are rules about how much story you can fit into a short work of fiction, and Flanagan throws them all out the window in her new collection. Like holographic slivers, her stories contain a breadth and scope usually found in novels, telling whole lifetimes in the span of after-dinner coffee. Thematically, her stories are linked by the hard-earned realization that the most important moments, those that change our lives, are the ones that seem the most inconsequential at the time. These are tales, therefore, of transformation, in which cardboard guitars and jelly donuts crack open the chrysalises of Flanagan’s characters to let them breathe and grow and gain understanding. Set in the rich yet inauspicious lands of the Midwest, the collection presents a kaleidoscope of heartbreak and triumph beyond metropolitan skylines. There’s no voyeurism in these stories. Flanagan’s characters sit right next to you and tell you everything, even the details they don’t realize are all too personal, too private.” Greg Baldino, Booklist

“A lawnmower abandoned in the middle of a half-cut lawn. A cardboard bass guitar constructed from twelve packs. A bloody sanitary napkin ‘unfolding like a fist from its toilet paper wrapper.’ A super-secret concoction of baby oil and iodine. A bald baby bird, ‘…a tiny thing with a heart like an anxious eye tick.” Erin Flanagan’s haunting stories sneak up on you with their sensory, sometimes startling images that ground you in the lives of her flawed but striving characters. Then, those details–extreme concrete closeups, so specific, so personal–pan out to become the universal in ways that suprised me every time. Flanagan also pulls off beautifully what I’d begun to suspect perhaps couldn’t be done–‘Feather the Nest’ is the first 9-11 story that makes sense to me. I’m thinking about it still.”
–Katrina Kittle, The Blessings of the Animals

“Erin Flanagan’s stories explore the efforts we make to find our place in our families, our locales, our cultures, and above all, inside the notions we have of who we are. Smart, lively, and full of skillful turns, It’s Not Going to Kill You, and Other Stories offers a poignant and unforgettable look at who we are when we have to face the complicated and necessary ways in which we all matter to one another. These are stories of great heart set in the Heartland.”
–Lee Martin, Pulitzer Prize Finalist Author of The Bright Forever

“Bravo to Flanagan for writing beyond her personal experiences and for keeping the traditional form of the short story alive and well. Each story stands alone with opening paragraphs that immediately draw the reader into the narrators’ worlds. With compassion, humor, and graceful writing, Flanagan explores the themes of lost opportunities, missteps and miscommunication, and the search for one’s place in the world. As the stories unfold, hidden emotions are revealed to that no one–the teenage boy struggling with his sexual identity, the young woman coping with motherhood, a man who comes to the aid of a neighbor, to name only a few–is quite whom the narrator seems to be. The stories’ conclusions are immensely satisfying, and the characters will continue to reverberate long aft the reader finishes the book.”
–Ann Weisgarber, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree

The Usual Mistakes:

“Readers, beware. In Erin Flanagan’s smart, funny, impossible-to-put-down stories, terrible things happen to good people. Lives are upset and complicated debts incurred, but those events are just the beginning. Flanagan writes with bleak, searing humor about the survivors of collisions both physical and emotional, and her acute vision is startling, remind readers that every loss is the beginning of a long, new story of healing and replenishing.”
–Erin McGraw, The Good Life

“Both gentle and wickedly funny, the stories in The Usual Mistakes beautifully define lives not so well lived. Flanagan, showing great insight into the hearts and hopes of characters who have little left to lose, gives these stories buoyancy and intelligence and allows the characters several delicious, irresistible moments of definance.”
–Timothy Schaffert, The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters

“This debut story collection [from Flanagan] is the second in Nebraska’s Flyover Fiction series, named, with ironic Midwestern self-deprecation, for the ‘flyover’ states on which its books center. The title story leads off: Eleanor, a 31-year-old Omaha widow, a former Best Western receptionist who forged credentials when it converted to a hospital, works as a medical assistant in that hospital and takes in a laser surgery patient as a renter so she can make her mortgage payments; Eleanor photographs her young female tenant’s neo-Nazi tattoos covering her body for her file of “visible mistakes,” and the two eventually identify ties that bridge age and class barriers. In ‘Intervention,’ another standout among the 12 pieces, Kate’s boyfriend drags her to Myrtle Beach, where his mother has plotted to end his father’s drinking; rather than a somber attempt to turn someone’s life around, the intervention (the third in three years) most closely resembles a Super Bowl party. The homogeneity of Flanagan’s characters, as bright and clear as they are, threatens to spoil the whole, but the inventiveness of her deceptively mild plots keep common themes fresh.”
Publishers Weekly

“In this aptly titled debut collection, Flanagan’s midwestern characters are driven by regret. A hapless uncle who once killed a girl driving drunk tries to start over. A man finds himself living in a truck after his wife discovers his infidelity. Flanagan’s characters aren’t afraid to stir the pot in the course of the action either. There is the corporate consultant who invites herself over to her married lover’s home for an impromptue and revelatory dinner, and a single woman left behind by her happily married frined who tries to brings that couple’s secrets to the surface. The characters are irrational, often outragenous . . . these tales, however, particularly the title story, about a lonely widow and a tattooed girl in an unlikely alliance, are enjoyable and tender, as good outweighs regret afterall.
–Booklist