Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley is a short story collection whose characters are intensely connected to their land--sometimes through love, sometimes through hate--and who suffer brokenness and loss, often because of how the land itself is suffering. Most of the stories are set in rural West Virginia, but they reach also into the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, a decaying city in the Ohio Valley, and the desolate suburbs of the Eastern seaboard. These are not, however, the tales of dystopia so common in American culture now. Several stories try to imagine alternative paradigms beyond our unraveling present, like “The Following,” whose main character must confront her skepticism about worlds behind this one when she unexpectedly finds bones through a mysterious force she can’t name. Other stories complicate our assumptions about people we often dismiss or despise: retired strip miners now victimized by mountaintop removal; an elderly impoverished couple who leases their land for hydrocracking; the mentally ill; the mentally disabled; the homeless and the dispossessed. In yet others, children confront potentially soul-crippling situations—an OxyContin-addicted father; a history of family suicide--and survive with new modes of consciousness and even power. In all these ways, Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley treats issues of poverty, class, environmental breakdown, and social collapse while also exploring the world’s sacredness.
Praise for Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley:
"In her novel Strange as This Weather Has Been (2007), Pancake took measure of the catastrophic impact of mountain-top removal coal mining on her home state of West Virginia. In this collection of first-person, deep-down stories, she unearths more subtle and insidious forms of destruction. With fiercely specific descriptions, acute emotional intricacy, and spiky, locally inflected dialogue, Pancake portrays embattled individuals in a land of natural richness and human poverty. In “Mouseskull,” a young girl lives in a crazily ramshackle farmhouse emblematic of the region’s dreams and struggles. “In Such Light” brings Flannery O’Connor and Joyce Carol Oates to mind as Pancake gives voice to a distressed college freshman who is spending the summer drinking and hanging out with her mentally impaired uncle. A sweet little boy endures cruel neglect, coal miners are forced out of their homes, and a woman develops a divining sense that leads her to bones in the wild and musings on the “Great Losses of These Times.” Pancake’s bravura tales carry the pulse of a betrayed yet beautiful place of loyalty and resilience."
"In Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley, Ann Pancake writes her way deep into the marrow of one of America's wildest and most brutally wounded landscapes, and into the secret lives of its inhabitants, young and old. Her characters' dreams and misfortunes range from comic misadventure to haunting spiritual quest, and their voices, alive with hope and sorrow, restore lush color and rhythm to our lives. Like a water-dowser in thirsty times, Ann Pancake holds the divining-rod of language in her gifted hands, and reveals a mysterious world we can’t afford to lose."
--Marjorie Sandor, author of The Late Interiors and Portrait of My Mother, Who Posed Nude in Wartime
"These are astonishing stories--tender, alive, full of heart and empathy but never sentimental, full of clenched drama and secrets and surprises but always subtle, full of knotty, poetic language, but also remarkably naturalistic. In her unflinching and lovingly accurate attention to the lives of the working poor, people who have fallen entirely beneath the radar of our literary notice, she occasionally calls to mind the haunting photographs of Walker Evans, but I don't think there's anyone else like Ann in American letters. She is a true original, and I urge with all my heart to read these gorgeous stories.
Ann Pancake is one of the best we have."
--Dan Chaon, author of Stay Awake and Await Your Reply