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October 2016
240 pages  

5.75 x 8
9780822944676
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Dog Years
Yancy, Melissa
WINNER OF THE 2016 DRUE HEINZ LITERATURE PRIZE
Winner of the 2017 California Book Awards, first fiction category

Selected by Richard Russo

Many of these richly layered stories juxtapose the miracles of modern medicine against the inescapable frustrations of everyday life: awkward first dates, the indignities of air travel, and overwhelming megastore cereal aisles. In “Go Forth,” an aging couple attends a kidney transplant reunion, where donors and recipients collide with unexpected results; in “Hounds,” a woman who runs a facial reconstruction program for veterans nurses her dying dog while recounting the ways she has used sex as both a weapon and a salve; and in “Consider This Case,” a lonely fetal surgeon caring for his aesthete father must reconsider sexuality and the lengths people will go to have children.

Melissa Yancy’s personal experience in the milieus of hospitals, medicine, and family services infuse her narratives with a rare texture and gravity. Keenly observant, offering both sharp humor and humanity, these stories explore the ties that bind—both genetic and otherwise—and the fine line between the mundane and the maudlin. Whether the men or women that populate these pages are contending with illness, death, or parenthood, the real focus is on time and our inability to slow its progression, reminding us to revel in those moments we can control.

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Melissa Yancy’s short fiction has appeared in One Story, Glimmer Train, Zyzzyva, and other publications. She is the recipient of a 2016 NEA Literature Fellowship. Stories in Dog Years have won the Glimmer Train Fiction Open, The Missouri Review Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize, and received special mention in the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Los Angeles where she works as a fundraiser for healthcare causes.
“Yancy breaks through her characters' surfaces of isolation and pretense to explore the uncharted yet universal depths of human emotion. Opening with the title story, a vignette about a couple, both geneticists, grappling with their son's muscular dystrophy in the midst of their own professional research on the subject, the author focuses on subjects that walk a fascinating line between deeply private struggle and performative interactions with the outside world. Her characters are wrapped up in their own lives, defined in some way by a significant but not all-encompassing facet of themselves until they are shaken from their complacency. . . . All these stories, many of which center on the medical industry, are meticulously wrapped up in layers of interiority, awareness of the outside gaze, and what it means to straddle the public and the private. The author's characters are deeply flawed but not irredeemable; they are delightfully and infuriatingly human, sympathetic without invoking pity, and complex without being inscrutable. Subtle but powerful, this collection is a moving portrait of what it means to be seen and to see ourselves.”—Kirkus Reviews

"The nine stories in this promising collection explore the shifting concepts of health and wellness in the modern world, in the drab laboratories of disease researchers, sanitized operating rooms, and the picturesque mountains of Davos, Switzerland. The title story poignantly explores the minutiae of raising a terminally ill child, examining how illness can seep into even the smallest moments. In "Firstborn," a Francophile accidentally invites the wrong niece on a much-needed vacation to Paris, only for the niece to abscond the night before the trip. An advocate for injured veterans wrestles with her affections for a general (a man with "no face") in "Hounds." A disgraced businesswoman enrolls in a cheap (and bizarrely effective) self-help regimen in "The Program™." Yancy deftly navigates the rarely seen backstage of the betterment industry, lightening the often heavy subject matter with welcome injections of irony and humor. The collection's cumulative effect is heartening and lasting."—Publishers Weekly

“Yancy’s strength lies in her ability to so thoroughly inhabit her characters that we come to know them better than we may know ourselves. Moments of interiority reveal truths, and they dig deep, allowing us to the see the people beneath their veneers. In just a sentence or two, a story can get at the heart of a character.” —Ploughshares

“Yancy weaves the professional with the personal, creating strong characters who rise to the challenges of life no matter the illness or personal traits. These are stories of strengh and although they deal with illness, there is no pity, but there are no superheroes either. These complex characters come to life with dynamic yet flawed lives.” —North of Oxford

“A collection you end up feeling a serious admiration for, moved by Yancy’s stubborn audacity to reveal her characters so nakedly and, more broadly, at her incredibly sharp eye.”—The Brooklyn Rail

“The smart, intricate, carefully crafted stories in Dog Years reminded me of Lauren Groff’s Delicate, Edible Birds for both their ambition and extraordinary beauty.”—Richard Russo, judge

“Melissa Yancy’s stories make me swoon with recognition. They’re funny and sad in the same breath; they’re incredibly well executed; they’re about the endlessly fascinating machinery of relationships, about the weird intersections of medical technology and human dignity, and about the ways time catches up with everyone in the end. I’ve been waiting a long time for her stories to be collected in a book; Dog Years is cause for celebration.” —Anthony Doerr 

“Melissa Yancy is a brilliant writer. In Dog Years she extracts from modern medicine a metaphoric language to describe the triumphs and disappointments of daily life with enormous empathy.”—Anthony Marra

“The stories of Dog Years deftly explore illness, aging, dying, and the fight we rage against the inevitable. There is beauty in all of these things, a kind of human gloaming, as after the sun sets comes sublime light. Yancy finds and uses this light masterfully again and again in every one of these deeply human, deeply affecting stories.”—Marie-Helene Bertino

Complete Description Reviews
Drue Heinz Literature Prize Table of Contents
Fiction/Drue Heinz Read a selection from this book
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WINNER OF THE 2016 DRUE HEINZ LITERATURE PRIZE
Winner of the 2017 California Book Awards, first fiction category

Many of these richly layered stories juxtapose the miracles of modern medicine against the inescapable frustrations of everyday life: awkward first dates, the indignities of air travel, and overwhelming megastore cereal aisles. In “Go Forth,” an aging couple attends a kidney transplant reunion, where donors and recipients collide with unexpected results; in “Hounds,” a woman who runs a facial reconstruction program for veterans nurses her dying dog while recounting the ways she has used sex as both a weapon and a salve; and in “Consider this Case,” a lonely fetal surgeon caring for his aesthete father must reconsider sexuality and the lengths people will go to have children.

Melissa Yancy’s personal experience in the milieus of hospitals, medicine, and family services infuse her narratives with a rare texture and gravity. Keenly observed, offering both sharp humor and humanity, these stories explore the ties that bind—both genetic and otherwise—and the fine line between the mundane and the maudlin. Whether the men or women that populate these pages are contending with illness, death, or parenthood, the real focus is on time and our inability to slow its progression, and to revel in those moments we can control.

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