Book Review: Good Trouble: Stories, by Joseph O’Neill

Good Trouble, by Joseph O'Neill

Good Trouble: Stories by Joseph O’Neill

Published by Pantheon on June 12, 2018

Series: n/a

Genre(s): fiction, contemporary

Format & Length: e-book, 176

Source: Penguin’s First to Read

Find on Goodreads

Purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

A masterly collection of eleven stories about the way we live now from the best-selling author of Netherland

From bourgeois facial hair trends to parental sleep deprivation, O’Neill closely observes the mores of his characters, whose vacillations and second thoughts expose the mysterious pettiness, the underlying violence, and, sometimes, the surprising beauty of ordinary life in the early twenty-first century. A lonely wedding guest talks to a goose; a pair of poets struggle over whether to participate in a “pardon Edward Snowden” verse petition; a cowardly husband lets his wife face a possible intruder in their home; a potential co-op renter in New York City can’t find anyone to give him a character reference. On the surface, these men and women may only be in mild trouble, but O’Neill reminds us of the real, secretly political consequences of our internal monologues in these perfectly made, fiercely modern stories. No writer is more incisive about the strange world we live in now, and the laugh-out-loud vulnerability of his people is just as well fodder for tears.

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Good Trouble is a collection of short stories that examine everyday life in the twenty-first century.

I had a lot of mixed thoughts about this book. Some of the stories did more for me than others. Some I didn’t know what to make of. At the end of some, I thought, “Okay, so what?”

Here’s the thing: people are endlessly fascinating. We all live in our own heads and are the hero in our own story. This collection felt to me more like a novelist preparing to write by creating little snippets of character insight. While the idea of exploring the thought patterns and inner monologues of these characters is an interesting one, I finished most of the stories feeling unfulfilled. With an unending variety of characters and personalities to choose from, the ones included here were hard for me to relate to.

“God, how sensitive men were – on the subject of themselves.”

Several of the stories included in Good Trouble were previously published in The New Yorker or Harper’s Magazine. If you’re interested in reading Good Trouble, I’d recommend checking out those articles first.


6 thoughts on “Book Review: Good Trouble: Stories, by Joseph O’Neill

  1. This is really just testament to how hard it is to write a good short story.

    I was so excited by the premise, it’s such a shame the content turned out so disappointing. When you’re reading and you start grasping at straws looking for the point you know something has gone very, very wrong.


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