In the final story of Jodi Paloni’s They Could Live with Themselves, a young man who aspires to be a photographer decides “to do a series, tell a story” in “twelve images” and “invite his audience to feel.” That’s what Paloni does in this masterly collection of linked stories. In the course of eleven stories set in fictional Stark Run, Vermont, she introduces us to an astonishingly wide range of characters and makes us feel deeply about them and their desires, their fears, their joys, and their sorrows. The town and its people come so utterly to life that no matter where you’re from you’ll feel like you’re home. Stark Run may not appear on any of Rand McNally’s maps, but it’s an important addition to America’s literary map, one that ranks up there with the likes of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, and Elizabeth Strout’s Crosby, Maine. I suggest that you visit Stark Run, and soon. If you do, you may leave it, but it and its characters will never leave you.
~ David Jauss, author of Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories and Black Maps
I love these satisfyingly subversive stories in which the quietest people, the gentlest-seeming souls are revealed as sometimes turbulent, always surprising. It is life as lived, complete with shocks, with strange alliances, with deeply wounded and miraculously healed hearts. Bravo to Jodi Paloni for seeing well past appearances, well past timeworn assumptions, and relaying to us all, so graciously, the truths that she has found.
–– Robin Black, author of Life Drawing and If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This
The eleven stories in They Could Live with Themselves are closely interrelated, by shared characters and events, by setting, and by their common subject, which is loss. Three generations of the people of Stark Run, Vermont, are observed through several narratives as they seek, in their various ways, to understand and move beyond ordinary misfortunes of one kind and another.
What is singular about these stories is their author’s viewpoint on them. In a style of admirable calm and understatement, and with complete emotional authority, she unites sense and sympathy in ways that are consistently artful, moving, and humane. Start at the beginning, and go straight through: Jodi Paloni just gets better and better.
—Castle Freeman, Jr., author of The Devil in the Valley, Go With Me, and All That I Have
In They Could Live with Themselves, Jodi Paloni reflects on loss and regret, almost as if they were a pair of spinster sisters who move from house to house in Stark Run, Vermont, dwelling intimately with its residents. Throughout these wise stories, Paloni demonstrates the human ability to continue on in the face of the unexpected, or more often, the expected, the inevitable, the routine. Her prose reflects her Vermont setting: sparse, restrained, with bursts of beauty and emotional resonance. Her characters—teachers and students, business owners and artists—surprise themselves (and us) with realizations that, quite often, arrive late, but never—Paloni assures us—too late. She writes with compassion and subtlety, reminding us of the ways that we are all connected and the ways that we must each, alone, learn to live with ourselves.
~ Lori Ostlund, author of After the Parade and The Bigness of the World, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction
More praise for... They Could Live With Themselves
"Jodi has a natural ease in her storytelling and an unsentimental yet compassionate depth of understanding of human foibles and desires.”
~ Portland Herald Press
THEY COULD LIVE WITH THEMSELVES dazzles twice: first, as a collection of subtle and engaging short stories that stand on their own, and second, as a sustained narrative. The intriguing characters of the fictional town of Stark Run appear and reappear until, by book’s end, the reader sees the broader picture of Jodi Paloni’s expert weaving. Throughout, her prose pops with humor and insight as it tracks the eternal tug between giving to others and giving to oneself. This is a stunning debut.
~ Philip Graham, author of Interior Design: Stories and How to Read An Unwritten Language, co-founder/editor at Ninth Letter
THEY COULD LIVE WITH THEMSELVES will immerse you in the private lives behind the postcard scenes of a New England town. Reminiscent of Amy Bloom and Charles Baxter, Jodi Paloni is an eloquent and deeply humane writer with her ear tuned to the quiet, pivotal moments in her characters’ lives. The unsung and the unseen; the decent and the petty: the characters in these interwoven stories will remind you of people you know, and of yourself, at your most tender.
~ Alexis Smith, author of Marrow Island and Glaciers
Reading Jodi Paloni’s collection They Could Live With Themselves is akin to sitting down at a small-town bar or diner in Vermont and eavesdropping on people’s stories. You’ll immediately feel the startling intimacies between characters, and each tale progressively unspools the charms, troubles, and triumphs of the small community, even as some ache to leave it all behind. A stirring portrait of rural New England, complete with lush, almost ethereal descriptions of the landscapes, this is a collection that you will savor long after the last page.
~ Matthew Limpede, editor of Carve Magazine