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Rafael Has Pretty Eyes

Rafael Has Pretty Eyes

254 pages
Published:   March 29, 2022
Fiction  /  Short Story Collections
Paperback:   9781773101637    $22.95

Winner, Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction
Long-Shortlisted, ReLit Award (Short Fiction)

"You go through life convinced you’re going to get diabetes like your old man and one day you choke to death on chicken gristle, and the autopsy shows your blood sugars were perfect."

The seventeen stories in Elaine McCluskey’s latest collection, Rafael Has Pretty Eyes, follow characters who have reached a four-way stop in life; some are deciding whether to follow the signs or defy them; others find a sinkhole forming beneath their feet.

A former fast-talking, big-bucks radio host now lives as a divorced payday loaner working in a strip mall; a football wide receiver at a small Canadian university works the night shift as a bouncer while recovering from his third concussion; a well-liked city councilor is arrested on a packed bus. As one character puts it, "life is just one extended series of anecdotes strung together until they kill you."

Set in the Maritimes but transcending regional boundaries, McCluskey’s stories are experimental, sometimes provocative, and often about those living on the margins. Smart, compassionate and unsparing, Rafael Has Pretty Eyes explores the absurdity and interconnectedness of a life adrift.
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Elaine McCluskey is a critically acclaimed fiction writer based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Her 2022 collection Rafael Has Pretty Eyes won the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction. McCluskey’s stories have appeared in The Antigonish Review, Room, and subterrain. The Gift Child is her seventh book of fiction.


Winner: Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction
Shortlisted: ReLit Award (Short Fiction)


“This new collection of stories by Elaine McCluskey showcases her ferocious talent. No other writer in Canada is as funny, rigorously original, or as sharply observant about what makes people, particularly marginal people, tick. Whether she's writing from the perspective of a comfort dog or a has-been radio host, McCluskey manages to shock the reader into an awareness of just how precarious our hold on respectability and security is.” — Susan Juby, author of Republic of Dirt

“These stories kill me! They are so good, so funny, so raw, so tender, so bittersweet, so devastating, so complicated and beautiful. I’m dead. Dead with writer envy.” — Morgan Murray, author of Dirty Birds

“Elaine McCluskey's characters leap to life, rendered in the kind of rich, vivid detail that makes you certain you’ve met them somewhere before. Rafael Has Pretty Eyes invites readers to revel in the stories of these artfully crafted characters and to feel every flash of sudden wonder or quiet sorrow. Once you've been drawn into McCluskey's ever-alluring world of words, you won't want to leave.” — Amy Spurway, author of Crow

Rafael Has Pretty Eyes captures the ennui of our particular real-world moment, while blessedly not bringing up the pandemic. ... an eclectic short story collection.” — Atlantic Books Today

“Elaine McCluskey knows she has succeeded if her stories do three things: make you laugh, occasionally make you cry and in the end, surprise you. ... McCluskey succeeds in doing just that in Rafael Has Pretty Eyes.” — Saltwire

“McCluskey has an eye for detail and a turn of phrase, and seems to delight in leading the reader through twists and turns to conclusions they didn’t see coming.” — The Hamilton Spectator

“I loved this book. Perfect for anyone who thinks the Trailer Park Boys are real or otherwise, and even those who aren’t always drawn to short stories, because these are short stories that underline why such things are worth reading.” — Pickle Me This

Rafael Has Pretty Eyes is one of the best collections I’ve read in a decade, so glorious and furious, and I love the raw energy that surges through every story. Reading it is like sticking your tongue into the outlet of another person’s life and feeling the pure current that runs there.” — Alexander McLeod, author of Animal Person

“At the heart of McCluskey’s stories are “underdogs” and “people whom society decides have no business reaching for greatness, no business upsetting the natural order of things” (from “Remember”). In Rafael Has Pretty Eyes, McCluskey proves that she knows how to string it all together, and she reminds us stories can bring us back to life.” — World Literature Today

“McCluskey has an eye for detail and a turn of phrase, and seems to delight in leading the reader through twists and turns to conclusions they didn’t see coming.” — Toronto Star