Float Up, Sing Down (Hardcover)
Laird Hunt's masterful story collection capturing one summer's day in the Indiana community where the beloved National Book Award Finalist Zorrie bloomed.
Candy Wilson has forgotten to buy the paprika. Turner Davis needs to get his zinnias in. Della Dorner told her mother she was going to the Galaxy Swirl, but that's not where she's really headed on her new Schwinn five-speed.
Float Up, Sing Down is the story of a single day. But in that day, how much teeming life! The residents of this rural town have their routines, their preferences, their joys, grudges, and regrets. Gossip is paramount. Lives are entwined. Retired sheriffs climb corn bins and muse on lost love, French teachers throw firecrackers out of barn windows, and teenagers borrow motorcycles to ride the back roads.
Each of the fourteen stories of Float Up, Sing Down follows one character's day in the life in one of Hunt's most beloved and enduring landscapes. In the tradition of Willa Cather, Sherwood Anderson, Elizabeth Strout, and Edward P. Jones, this is a symphony of souls, a masterful portrait of both loneliness and community by one of our great limners of American experience.
“The separate stories are subtly connected, like the rings of a stone skipped across a still lake. As the associations build and cohere, you feel Bright Creek more viscerally, both the way it can suffocate from gossip and also lift up the lonely through daily waves and hellos. At times melancholy, at times laugh-out-loud funny, Float Up, Sing Down is a celebration of the universes contained in the everyday. If you are a fan of Elizabeth Strout's depictions of rural Maine, you will love Hunt's openhearted yet wry take on this small corner of Indiana.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Questions of fate and identity meander through these stories . . . Hunt’s characters are not self-created in the manner most modern Americans like to think we are. The ripple effects of an abusive father, an indulgent mother, early success that fizzles—all guide a life’s path, sometimes quite literally . . . And somehow, without even the slightest sentimentality about it, the book provides an elegy for a lost generation, or maybe for all the elders still here, as overlooked as the Midwest itself.” —Los Angeles Times
"The apparently placid setting disguises a deep reservoir of feeling and lets Mr. Hunt enlarge on his depiction of haunted ordinariness . . . The portrayal of a real community lends a nostalgic feel to the vignettes . . . Polite exteriors and private reckonings characterize the collection . . . If Float Up, Sing Down is spread thinner than Zorrie, it continues Mr. Hunt’s neat trick of conveying human complexity through the simplest of scenarios.” —Wall Street Journal
“Hunt has mastered a style that feels both traditional and fresh. [His] stories of Bright Creek . . . offer a timely refresher on human decency. Just as importantly, they remind readers that suffering, joy, death and renewal are all connected factors in life's crop cycle.” —Financial Times
“This story takes place over one remarkable day in a small Indiana town. It's a tale that seems small at first but feels more consequential as it goes on, just like the lives it describes.” —Good Housekeeping
“Genial and generous of heart, these 14 interlinked stories capture the lives and loves of the inhabitants of Bright Creek in Indiana, where everyone knows everyone and secrets ripple under the surface of their rural world. Brimming with easy-going charm, there's real heart and hurt here, too, as Hunt unspools the hopes and dreams of his beguiling characters . . . An absolute delight.” —Daily Mail
“An entertaining work of exceptional vitality.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“The connective tissue of the stories, each of which is titled after its protagonist, is the characters' Indiana hamlet, friendly on the surface but riven with subterranean traumas . . . Fans of Hunt's previous small-town studies will appreciate these lovingly drawn portraits.” —Publishers Weekly
“Fourteen linked stories take place on one languid summer day in small-town Indiana, with a cast of characters that are impossible not to love . . . This quiet day is trapped in time, and readers get to look in at the perfect details. Here, people don't share their feelings much, but Hunt's descriptions-a lip quiver, a kind nod, a quiet look-tell all . . . The narrative voices bring enough diversity to keep things interesting, as do the threads-a detail, a character, even a slowly illuminated mysterious event-that weave throughout the collection.” —Booklist
“Hunt brings to life the complex and shared experiences of living in relationship to other people in his newest story collection . . . While the stories work as stand-alone pieces, they also form a beautiful whole. This is a loving portrait of small-town Middle America that resonates well beyond its borders.” —Library Journal
"An intricate tapestry . . . Stories begin with homespun details before easing toward edgier revelations . . . Hunt's slow-build approach to storytelling makes these characters' lonely lives all the more poignant. Rural life is anything but mundane in these pitch-perfect stories." - Shelf Awareness for Readers
"In Laird Hunt’s collection of stories, residents of an Indiana farming community in 1982 go about their routines, with secrets and regrets roiling beneath the surface. ‘Things grew where they grew and flew where they flew and that was all there was to it,’ thinks one character. It’s an assessment that infuses these deeply felt tales.” —Christian Science Monitor
“An ingeniously structured depiction of small-town life in rural Indiana, Float Up, Sing Down dignifies the ordinary people at the center of its stories, illuminating their secrets and desires in gently comedic ways that manage, too, to pierce us. Reminiscent of Joan Silber's work, this is a hopeful and poignant portrait of the intertwined lives that make a community. A miraculous puzzle of a collection.” —Cara Blue Adams, author of YOU NEVER GET IT BACK
“What a delight to spend a day with the inhabitants of Bright Creek, their longings and lusts, their memories. Laird Hunt writes so brilliantly about the quotidian-why a woman would leave a tin of paprika on a gravestone; why a boy would be devoted to this headband-and in doing so, he reveals so much else. Float Up, Sing Down is a shimmering, magical book.” —Margot Livesey, author of THE BOY IN THE FIELD
“One of Laird Hunt's many gifts is his ability to transport readers to small towns filled with the most fascinating, yet ordinary, characters. He has done it again in this brilliant collection, which is skillfully linked by time and place. In the pages of Float Up, Sing Down, you'll meet a retired farmer closely observing his neighbors while thinking back on war days, a woman who finds great comfort in spending time in a cornfield, and a host of other complex and memorable people. I love this book.” —De'Shawn Charles Winslow, author of DECENT PEOPLE and IN WEST MILLS
“In Float Up, Sing Down, Hunt offers us access to the deepest secrets of the members of a small twentieth-century community in rural Indiana, showing the glory of the quotidian and allowing us to revel in the rare and spectacular cadences of inward narration as characters' minds race ahead of events and conversations while also zipping back and up and down and around. A sweet, sensitive, subtle masterpiece.” —Jennifer Croft, author of HOMESICK
“A virtuosic portrait of midcentury America itself-physically stalwart, unerringly generous, hopeful that tragedy can be mitigated through faith in land and neighbor alike . . . What Hunt ultimately gives us is a pure and shining book, an America where community becomes a 'symphony of souls,' a sustenance greater than romance or material wealth for those wise enough to join in.” —New York Times Book Review on ZORRIE
“The stories in Float Up, Sing Down are funny and heart-wrecking, often in the same sentence. This is a glorious collection.” —Hilma Wolitzer, author of TODAY A WOMAN WENT MAD IN THE SUPERMARKET
“Lit from within.” —Mark Athitakis, Los Angeles Times, "Best Fiction of the Year" on ZORRIE
“A tender, glowing novel.” —Anthony Doerr, Guardian, “Best Books of the Year” on ZORRIE
“The National Book Award finalist of a novel packs a whole, absorbing human life into just 161 pages that are polished like jewels.” —Scott Simon, NPR on ZORRIE