Friday 27 May 2022

Unaccustomed To Grace by Lesley Bannatyne BLOG TOUR #UnaccustomedToGrace @BannatyneLesley @RandomTTours

Unaccustomed to Grace is a collection of short stories where the unlikely outcome for irresponsible acts and unfortunate events result in redemption. 

Bannatyne's mastery of the written word informs these stories of common conflict with a brilliantine magic rarely found in contemporary literature. 

From the unlikely romance between a zoo employee and a spiritualist/activist to the redemption of a grandmother's long-rehearsed vengeance, these heart-warming stories are the contemporary fables we need in these stressful days.

Unaccustomed to Grace by Lesley Bannatyne was published on 8 March 2022 by Kallisto Gaia Press. As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I'm delighted to share an extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from Unaccustomed To Grace 
by Lesley Bannatyne

Corpse Walks into a Bar

JUST ME THERE AROUND CLOSING and Sid the owner is back in the kitchen loading highball glasses into the dishwasher and this corpse stumbles in and starts going on about how I gotta bury him. The juke is pumping heavy metal because that’s what Sid likes and it’s just me in the bar so he doesn’t care. Well it’s not just me and that’s the problem here.

“You’re none of my business,” I say to the corpse. “I don’t know you. I don’t know your people.”

“A decent person would honor a dead man’s request,” the corpse says. “A decent man would help a pal,” he says.

“You’re not my pal,” I say, eyes steady on my glass. “And I’m not a decent man.”

“You don’t have to be a decent man to do a decent thing.”

“Right.” I grab my jacket and head for the door. The corpse lets out this long spew of rot breath and starts to wail. I mean, really wail, like he’s crying for the sadness of everyone that ever lived, for the mothers that lost their babies right inside their own stomachs, for the little kids that wandered into swim- ming pools. I mean a deep, shin-splitting, gutted kind of crying.

I take a good look at him. Skinny guy, couldn’t have been much to him even when he was alive. Feet too big for his body. Not that old, maybe 50s. Thinning black hair combed straight back and shellacked. Hands—a little pulpy.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Dick Doyle.” He smooths his rumpled button-down. 

“Can you walk alright?”

“No,” he says, rubbing his eyes with a filthy sleeve. 

Every instinct says leave the bar. Go home. But when a man cries, well, I don’t know. What’s the harm, I think. I put on my jacket, sling the corpse’s arm over my shoulder. I know that this is not my last mistake.

Fucker still weighs about 120 pounds and I got arthritis in my shoulder from when I dislocated it when I was ten. August, me and Ray down by the Neponset River behind the power plant where the water’s always warm. Tied a fat rope to a sycamore and climbed up to swing out. But Ray pantsed me and shoved me from the tree so I flew out over the water with one arm holding onto the rope and the other holding onto my shorts. Doc eventually snapped the shoulder back into place. Man that hurt, but we laughed for years about me swinging Tarzan-style over the river with my white ass hanging out. It used to make me happy to think of us all as kids—me, my little sister Patty, Ray. Now I stuff the memories as far down as I can. When they pop up, I hammer them back.

“I can pay you,” the corpse says. “I’m serious. You bury me and I’ll sign over my store.”

“What store?”

“Stationery store. I’m not nobody, you know.”

I couldn’t turn it over in my head. I tried to picture the guy not as a corpse. Like a regular guy, with all his skin. Tried to imagine him in a sweater, pushing buttons on a cash register. Couldn’t do it.

I’m thinking I should leave the corpse at a shelter or church where someone would find out who he was and call the right people. Guy’d get put in a potter’s field. Or maybe they’d make his ashes into diamonds and sell them. They do that now, turn bodies into diamonds. The carbon. Only takes a pound of ashes, says my ex-buddy Ray, and he reads the Globe every day. I wouldn’t have turned Patty into diamonds for a million bucks. Buried her right, in a nice coffin, St. Mary’s. Rose quartz stone.

Praise for Unaccustomed to Grace 

There is a clear-hearted and humane writer at work here, whose work holds room for both suffering and grace.
--Shruti Swami, A House is a Body and The Archer

Bannatyne’s stories are full of heartache and loss, but they are never bleak or cynical. [She] is a superb writer of the mind, but an even greater reader of the heart. This book, filled with characters caught in between futility and redemption, was, for me, an exercise—a deliberation—in empathy."
--Sui Li, 5 Under 35 honoree, Transoceanic Lights

From macabre fantasy to raw reality, Lesley Bannatyne's terrific stories introduce an authentic voice and unique vision. UNACCUSTOMED TO GRACE revels in danger, in warped heroes, in ebullient—sometimes devastating—fearlessness. A wise and thoroughly enjoyable book!”
Daphne Kalotay, Russian Winter, The Blue Hours

These carefully observed, sometimes surreal stories capture characters in freefall. Each one—wolf wrangler, tarot card reader, guru, anthropologist, Soviet farmer, or parents of children taken, gone, returned, or fragile—will find a place in your heart.
—Vanessa Diffenbaugh, The Language of Flowers

Lesley Bannatyne’s stories in Unaccustomed to Grace are harrowing, funny, magical, and heartbreakingly, reassuringly human. Here we are with our flaws and troubles, and also our insight and even our grace. There’s a shimmering mythic streak through them, too, that sets Bannatyne in the tradition of seanchaithe – storytellers – who wield the old enchantments with an unerring instinct for revealing the soul’s sickness and its perfect cure. She seems to have x-ray vision that peers straight into the human heart, and a flawless ear for the bumps and rhythms of talk. This is a marvelous book, full of wonder, courage, and truth, and it’s a great pleasure to read. I loved it!
--Dr. Kate Chadbourne, A November Visit

These are stories to read and ponder, to share with others, to admire, and then to read again. Bannatyne’s themes are universal and her storytelling completely original. Pick up this book as you would a shining stone on the beach. Carry it with you and don’t let it go.
—Lynn C. Miller, The Day After Death and The Unmasking

LESLEY BANNATYNE is an American author who writes extensively on Halloween, especially its history, literature, and contemporary celebration.  
She also writes short stories, many of which are included in this debut collection Unaccustomed to Grace (Kallisto Gaia Press, 2022). 
Her work has been published in the Boston Globe, Smithsonian, Christian Science Monitor, and Zone 3, Pangyrus, Shooter, Craft, Ocotillo Review, Fish, and Bosque Literary Magazines. 
She won the 2018 Bosque fiction prize and received the 2019 Tucson Festival of Books Literary Award for fiction, the 2020 fiction prize, and was a finalist for many others, including the Tennessee William Literary Festival Writing Award, the Carve Prose & Poetry Contest, and the Hudson Prize. 
As a freelance journalist, she has covered stories ranging from druids in Massachusetts to relief workers in Bolivia. 
Lesley is a graduate of Wheaton College (MA) and holds an ALM from Harvard University Extension Studies. 
She lives and works in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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