The Shell Collector: Stories

by Anthony Doerr

Paperback, 2011

Call number

FICT DOE

Collection

Genres

Publication

Scribner (2011), 240 pages

Description

The exquisitely crafted stories in Anthony Doerr's acclaimed debut collection take readers from the African coast to the pine forests of Montana to the damp moors of Lapland, charting a vast physical and emotional landscape. Doerr explores the human condition in all its varieties-metamorphosis, grief, fractured relationships, and slowly mending hearts-and conjures nature in both its beautiful abundance and crushing power. Some of his characters contend with tremendous hardship; some discover unique gifts; all are united by their ultimate deference to the mysteries of the universe outside themselves.

User reviews

LibraryThing member CarolynSchroeder
One of my favorite short story collections to date, and an introduction to a wonderful author. I gave this book 5-stars because every one of the eight stories is strong, thoughtful, interesting and a cut above many, many of the short stories out there today. This guy can write! Wow, how beautiful that is. He also seems to have wisdom of an artist well beyond his years. It also felt like they were each meticulously researched ... little worlds devoted to fly fishing, photography, the study of shells, fossils, winter in Montana; and the myriad of life forms that surround us all. So maybe that is the one caveat, one must love the thought of nature, and the site of our living, as a powerful influence over our emotions and lives. Doerr is right up there with some of my favorite nature writers, yet he does it in such a way to also introduce us to amazing, yet every day, characters who live amidst his vision of nature. I also think this book had a lot to say about love, and the differences and similarities that draw two people together and also, are they things that can drive them apart. And how sometimes, letting go of someone you love, is the biggest gift one can give, but also how we all sacrifice for the people we love. I loved all the stories, so I am not sure I had a favorite, but if I had to, I would choose "Mkondo" (about an unassuming academic of fossils who literally runs into a woman he loves in Tanzania while searching for a "dead bird" - an absolutely beautiful, intelligent and surprising love story). Highly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member fieldnotes
This collection starts strong, then it starts to seem like this guy's instrument doesn't have too many strings and then he tries to write about Africans.The first three stories are memorable and rewarding, pleasantly removed from day-to-day circumstances and romantically committed to unlikely pairings and second shots--"So Many Chances" I might read again just for pleasure. But, Doerr is hung up on female characters who aren't human (or female)--one dimensional fantasy objects for boy poets who haven't come to terms with loving anyone that doesn't act, move and think like a man. They are too captivating and convenient, magical and false.

And he can't write about Africans for shit. In fact, his attempts were almost offensive. If this was 1700 and Africa was still the unknown, he could people it with barbarians and alienated semi-adapted, cerebral metaphors; but it isn't and his African stories ("The Caretaker" and "Mkondo"), while perhaps well structured and rewarding to interpret, use foreignness as a blocking device to protect characters who act in unlikely but memorable ways. When he lightens up, ("July Fourth"--oily feel to it, and "For a Long Time This Was Griselda's Story") he can sound a bit like a more self-conscious Lewis Nordan, which is weird but good. Doerr has potential; but he needs to branch out and stop projecting his fantasies on real things.

Lastly, you must like fishing and people isolated in the back country in an Annie Dillard sort of way to get enjoyment from this at all. There are no cities or social settings that involve more than two people in conversation at once (pretty much).
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LibraryThing member cait815
Favorite stories were The Caretaker, Mkondo, and So Many Chances
LibraryThing member rosies
well-written, interesting collection of stories; not sure what to make of them
LibraryThing member sundustnet
"The Caretaker" is the richest and most heartbreaking story I have read. The act of burying a whale's heart is strange and sad and perfect. The story reminds me that the events in our lives that will change us forever usually pass as though they mean nothing. We move through them almost asleep.
LibraryThing member klburnside
I really like Anthony Doerr a lot, and I enjoyed most the stories in this collection thoroughly. Some stories were better than others, and my favorites came towards the end.
LibraryThing member michaelmurphy
Doerr's excellent collection of short stories transports us from the coast of Kenya to the Montana winter, from Liberia in West Africa to Oregon, from Tanzania to Ohio. Three of the best for this reader are the title story "The Shell Collector", "The Hunter's Wife" and "Mkondo" where the characters Doerr creates exist in natural worlds suffused with a power that is palpable. Add "The Caretaker" and you have four mesmerising stories from a very powerful creative imagination.

In "The Shell Collector", Doerr draws inspiration from the world of science. The blind collector trawls the beaches and coral reefs of Kenya, his retreat from the world, spending his time sifting through the sand granules in search of rare shell specimens, his life long study - but his private world is overturned when he happens on a cure for malaria, strangely enough from the lethal poison of a cone snail. Soon, he is overrun by relatives of the sick and other outsiders when word quickly spreads about the miracle cure. . . . . . "The Hunter's Wife" has the gift of psychic commune with the spirits of earth's creatures and this poses a challenge to their life together in the harsh Montana winterscape. . . . . . In "Mkondo", Doerr explores the theme of people caught between different cultures: a newly married couple from the rainforests of Tanzania and the suburbs of Oregon respectively, discover how love can first blossom - and then wither, depending on where they are: "She was learning that in her life everything - health, happiness, even love - was subject to the landscape". . . . . ."The Caretaker", a refugee from civil war in Liberia, now in Oregon, struggles to recover from the trauma of witnessing atrocities and being forced to carry out an execution.

Another story,"A Tangle By The Rapid River" is reminiscent of some hunting stories in Annie Proulx's "Heartsong's and other stories", an excellent collection of gritty stories set in rugged country. Both books strongly recommended.
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LibraryThing member catnips13
The collection starts out strong, and then weakens around the middle, where more light-hearted stories like "July Fourth" reside. This is rather jarring, as Doerr's voice completely changes in his attempts at humour, and the prose lacks the lush quality it bears in the stories with a lot more gravity. "The Shell Collector" was the most enjoyable, featuring a blind malacologist and the Kenyan coastline. Most of the stories are infused with the romantic human perception of the ocean, and Doerr's fantasies about reality, which is probably why Elizabeth Gilbert calls this a book of short myths. Rather puzzled at Doerr's venture into writing about "The African".… (more)
LibraryThing member nikkinmichaels
Beautiful. Anthony Doerr's prose is otherworldly.
LibraryThing member msf59
It is no secret, that I am a fan of All the Light We Cannot See, so I was interested in exploring some of his earlier work, including his first story collection, from 2003. Not a surprise- the guy can write. He grabs you right away with the title story, featuring a blind malacologist, who finds joy in collecting shells. Doerr shifts effortlessly, from the Kenyan coast, to an Ohio suburb, to the wilds of Montana, in these various tales. He also has a deep understanding and passion, for nature and the outdoors. Some stories are stronger than others but this is a satisfying, well-written collection.… (more)
LibraryThing member PatOsborne
Many, arguably all, of Mr. Doerr’s protagonists would qualify as misfits of one sort or another. Eccentric, non-conformist, odd ducks. Their unconventional behaviors, though, invite the reader deeply into expertly crafted short stories or novellas with stunning environments that are vivid and instrumental to the stories playing out within them. There is loss-of-mind aplenty, but something inside you that knows the story couldn’t have taken any other direction.
Mr. Doerr is a remarkable nature writer; in face, the natural world is as much a character in his stories as are his protagonists. Don’t read him in a hurry. But do read him.
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LibraryThing member jigarpatel
This was a struggle relative to All the Light We Cannot See. I only read 3 out of the 8 short stories before giving up. The premise is good: anecdotes on the natural world and human interaction with it. I just found the plots thin and characters sometimes two-dimensional.

Read them all if you are keen to delve into Anthony Doerr's inspiration. Select a few if you are apt to attach deeper allegorical meanings to simple stories. But don't let it put you off his masterful All the Light We Cannot See.

The Shell Collector - 3/5 - the best of the three I read, tells the story of a blind shell collector, his life and visitors. The ending was thoughtful. On deeper reflection, this story could be considered an allegory.

The Hunter's Wife - 2/5 - a separated couple, their history and the separate paths they follow. Honestly, I struggle to remember what happened.

Mkondo - 2/5 - a man visits Africa and meets a woman, their journey thenceforth, and their relationships with nature and each other. Like The Shell Collector, a more thoughtful person than myself could interpret Mkondo as some kind of allegory.
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LibraryThing member lisa.isselee
I love the fact that all the stories have nature as the main theme.
I had some favorites amount them, and all the others were not entirely my cup of tea.
I especially like The Shell Collector and The Hunters Wife.
Still enjoyed reading most of the book.

Pages

240

ISBN

1439190054 / 9781439190050
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