North of Ordinary

Available Jan 14, 2025

224 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $17.99
ISBN: 9781954276321


ISBN: 9781954276338

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“What dazzling stories John Rolfe Gardiner writes. His characters, in the best way, are earthbound, caught in the web of work and school and family, past and present. Each story is a world, perfect and complete, and when I read the last one I marveled that so much wisdom and beauty could be contained in a single volume: North of Ordinary.”

Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy and The Road from Belhaven

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“A lovely, meditative collection, steeped in old ways and days and with a true sense of place.”

Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and Natural History

“Thomas McGuane and Larry McMurtry both told me the short story was, to each of them, the most challenging form of prose. Tom said he wrote five novels before he ever turned out one good short story. Larry ceased all attempts at short fiction before I was born. John Rolfe Gardiner seems to have mastered the short story. These are first rate.”

James McMurtry, singer-songwriter

“I’m a fan of John Rolfe Gardiner’s fiction and will read any book he writes. He has the kind of energetic and clear prose I admire.”

Jay Parini, author of The Last Station and The Damascus Road

“Wistful, quirky, and laugh-out-loud funny. . . . Gardiner’s art seamlessly elides the ordinary.”

Christopher Benfey, author of A Summer of Hummingbirds and If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years (from the Introduction)

“You’re as likely to be hit twice by lightning on a Monday as see a wood chipper pull a man into its maw.”

So begins North of Ordinary, John Rolfe Gardner’s virtuosic story collection of survivors getting by despite the odds in a shifting world. In these pages, we meet a nervous young apprentice to a weathered tree climber; a dangerously obsessed student at a Southern Bible college; an attractive schemer trying to build an audience for her tiny radio station; an undercover, cross-dressing lawman whose friendship changes the life of a deaf child in a suburban cul-de-sac; and an elderly Black mason whose knowledge of the town’s history harbors truths that shake his visitor’s foundation.

Surprising, touching, and deeply humane, the ten stories of North of Ordinary offer an intimate, revelatory look at our fractured society and pull us together through the power of art.

North of Ordinary is introduced by Christopher Benfey and illustrated by Maria Nicklin.

Excerpt from North of Ordinary

Available Jan 14, 2025

John Rolfe Gardiner discusses his literary career and shares the stories behind North of Ordinary with Potomac Review and One Story.