Had a Good Time
Robert Olen Butler
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Buy *Had a Good Time: Stories from American Postcards* online

Had a Good Time: Stories from American Postcards
Robert Olen Butler
Atlantic Monthly Press
267 pages
July 2004
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Pulitzer-Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler takes a clever gimmick and turns it into a collection of short stories that does nothing short of illuminating our humanity – the good and the bad. Had A Good Time: Stories from American Postcards is a deeply moving book filled with emotionally gripping tales of love, honor, dreams, grief, pride and struggle.

Butler’s wonderful gimmick is this: he takes actual picture postcards he has collected over the years, then creates a story from the simple writing on the postcard. He creates characters, situations and emotions all from a few lines of personal communication between two people he has never met. And he does it beautifully.

This collection of fofteem stories are often framed around a simple photograph, postcard writing or an old blurb from a newspaper published in the year 1910, and the characters and scenery come alive with the vibrancy and newness of America in the early twentieth century. There are stories of grief and tragedy, such as the story of a wife writing to her dying husband and a father and son struggling with the after effects of a daring aviator’s death. There are stories of love and companionship and family, some with eerie twists, such as the tale of a Bible-quoting man who almost sacrifices the things he loves most to prove his devotion to God. And there are stories of death, such as the heart-wrenching tale of a soldier’s mother who becomes mother to all dying men.

I am not a big short story reader, but I may rethink my position after reading these gems. I had a great time reading Had A Good Time. Sounds clichéd, I know. But it’s true. It is simply magical and amazing what the author can do with only the lines of a postcard to serve as the story’s launching point. I loved this treasury of treasures, even the ones that nearly broke my heart, and will never look at a postcard the same again. This book proves that the richness of life is often not evident on the surface, that every picture does indeed tell as story, and that often, those stories are worth far more than just a thousand words.

Wish you were here.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Marie D. Jones, 2004

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