Evanston Public Library Friends – Evanston Public Library
Auction Ends: Jun 2, 2010 11:59 PM CDT

Local Authors

Remember Katie?!!

Item Number
Estimated Value
$45 USD
$40 USD to vpblades
Number of Bids
5  -  Bid History

Item Description

She used to shelve books at the North Branch…  and is now a critically acclaimed author of not one…  but TWO books!!

On May 14, 2010, The Chicago Tribune wrote a wonderful review of her latest book titled "Happy Now?" -- one of the two included in this package! 

 Katherine Shonk is the author of Happy Now? (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010), a novel set in Chicago, and The Red Passport (FSG, 2003), a short story collection set in Russia. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, Best American Short Stories 2001, StoryQuarterly, The Georgia Review, The Moscow Times, The Chicago Tribune, Cicada, and elsewhere. She has received an award and a fellowship from the Illinois Arts Council, and The Red Passport was a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year. A native of Evanston, Illinois, Shonk lives in Chicago with her husband and has worked long-distance for the past ten years as a writer and editor for Harvard University.

 Happy Now?

After many lonely years and alarming Internet dates, Claire Kessler, an artist and self-proclaimed homebody, believed she had found the perfect man. Jay was earnest, romantic, and gainfully employed, and within a year they were married.

Less than two years later, Jay killed himself.

On Valentine’s Day.

Happy Now? follows Claire’s chaotic and often tragicomic journey through the weeks after her husband’s suicide.

With wit and compassion, Katherine Shonk explores both the possibilities and the limitations of human relationships. Happy Now? is an uncommonly honest portrait of love, loss, and letting go.

The Red Passport

The eight unpredictable, poignant, and often comic stories that make up Katherine Shonk's The Red Passport portray the tumult, hopes, and disappointments of Russians and visiting Americans alike in post-Communist Russia. Many of the Russians in these stories are strangers in their own country, learning to navigate a new landscape of Dunkin Donuts franchises that flourish where consumer culture had so recently been anathema; where the fall of the Soviet Union has not in fact brought about peace or prosperity; and where people still find a way to reach out and for love, despite often disastrous results.

In her elegantly crafted stories Shonk delves deeply into these people, finding both the nub of their disappointment and the truth of their good intentions. Describing a place that is at once exotic and disconcertingly familiar, The Red Passport is a moving and startling book that doles out amazement and delight in equal measure.

In bookstores April 2010 Happy Now? is the new novel from the author of The Red Passport

“The latest from Shonk (The Red Passport) will have anyone who’s ever complained about a crappy Valentine’s Day counting their blessings... Both tear-jerking and laugh-out-loud funny, this will have readers rooting for its brave heroine and hoping that, indeed, she will one day be happy again.”

Publisher's Weekly

Praise for Happy Now?

...Shonk’s...distinctive voice — the ironic, self-mocking sense of humor, the flair for capturing the ache of imperfect romantic love, the observation of quirky behavioral details, the starchy appraisal of flawed character, the telling sense of family dynamics — is once again on display.

     On the surface, [the] story might seem like fodder for a Lifetime television network drama or a women’s magazine story. But Shonk (the sort of writer Saul Bellow might have dubbed “a first-class noticer”) makes gold of it — invariably stripping away sentimentality and replacing it with the mix of caustic intelligence and biting wit of someone who feels things deeply but never loses the ability to step back a bit and see the dysfunctional theater of it all.

Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

Katherine Shonk’s absorbing debut novel, Happy Now?, opens in the bleak aftermath of this tragedy, and painstakingly captures the surreal rhythms and routines of dealing with a sudden loss. ...With grace (and graciousness), Shonk shows us a relationship that, while full of love, could never have been enough for one of the people in it. ...Happy Now? is a raw, lucid portrait of a life just after it’s been shattered, as it begins to take on a new shape.

Eryn Loeb, Time Out New York

Anyone who has passed up a popcorn car-chase flick in favor of a good indie knows how powerful a simple, skillfully told, character-driven story can be. Katherine Shonk does, and Happy Now? (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), her first novel, is proof. Shonk's incisive writing feels effortless, at times stealthy. She's so economical in her descriptions—of a character's mannerisms, clothes, psyche—that she can evoke a resonant image in the space of a sentence.

Rachel Rosenblit, ELLE magazine

Both tear-jerking and laugh-out-loud funny, [Happy Now?] will have readers rooting for its brave heroine and hoping that, indeed, she will one day be happy again.

Publisher’s Weekly 

Carefully configured with telling details, Shonk’s brooding yet wryly witty drama is a revealing tale of family ties, love gone awry, and the wintry season of grief.

Donna Seaman, Booklist

With gentle humor and a complex heroine, Shonk’s (The Red Passport, 2003) confident first novel uses a light hand to sketch out some dark truths. Sensitive and engrossing portrayal of the grieving process that never resorts to cliché.

Kirkus Review

In Claire Kessler, Shonk has managed to create a wonderfully realistic character and a story poignant and witty rather than melancholy and dark.

Library Journal

Praise for The Red Passport

The people in The Red Passport, Katherine Shonk's collection of stories about life in post-Soviet society, can be roughly divided between real Russians and those who wish they were; natives trying to get out; well-meaning Americans trying to fit in; and some older types still trying to wake from the nightmare of the New World Order... Shonk sees these and other varied perestroikans with an eye both rueful and ruthless, sympathetic to their dreams even as she sees through them. She writes with the comfortable sense of one who has not only been there but taken a good look around.

the New York Times

The Red Passport is an admirable first collection that looks modest but thinks big, turning intimate scenes between Russians and Americans into snapshots of cross-cultural confusion in this strange new global era... Shonk's characters may not always share the same mother tongue, but they speak the same language because of a rare and fleeting empathy that sets aside their disparate pasts and diverging futures.

The Moscow Times

 At times throughout these stories, Shonk's narratives sound like a translation of Russian literature, or triumphs of Slavic ventriloquism—not just because of shocking, Babel-like comparisons, but also the occasional Chekhovian quiet gesture... and the depiction of a Nabokovian character... The Red Passport—full of all sorts of precarious mixings of horror and comedy, Russians and Americans, saviors and terrorists, disappointments and hopes—is a fine debut collection of tales told in a new, clear voice.

the Chicago Tribune

The Red Passport is a wonderful first collection of short stories, by the American writer Katherine Shonk, set in present-day Russia... Satire contends with clear-eyed pity in these brief chronicles of human fallibility... Shonk writes with a native English speaker's aplomb (and literary inheritance), but her detailed knowledge of the Russian settings and character suggest a Russian upbringing. Whatever the explanation, it cannot detract from the pleasures and insights of these shapely stories with their shared note of rueful humour.

Times Literary Supplement

[Shonk] is disarmingly deft at getting into the heads of her Russian characters... Whether you are American or Russian... you must read these stories or have them read to you.

Los Angeles Times

...stark and magnificent... These stories offer more than just impressively detailed political and social commentary; at the heart of each is a real, human character in difficult, complex relationships... Shonk's sentences stand sturdy and unglossed, a style not so minimalist as to be meaningless, but whose truths and descriptions affect us without help from overwrought prose. Despite their brevity, each of these eight stories is epic in detail and emotional depth, leaving us eager for the author's next effort.

Minneapolis Star

In this promising debut collection set primarily in post-Communist Russia, expatriates and natives alike endeavor to make their way in a new social and economic landscape, often sharing an intense desire for whatever the other possesses: money, freedom, love, family... That tension lends these stories an impressive vitality.

Publisher's Weekly

...important stories, at once timeless and searingly of the moment...



Item Special Note

  • Both of Katie's books are signed, and will be mailed to the winning bidder at close of auction!

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