Ohmigosh! The publishing date is almost here! Tuesday, October 4, THEY WERE LIKE FAMILY TO ME will be in bookstores everywhere!
For the paperback, we decided to go with the title of a different story in the collection. As much as we all love the “Armadillos” title, we felt that They Were Like Family To Me is more evocative of what the book is about. And of course, a new title deserves a gorgeous new cover! EXCITED!!!
“One of the most original and consistently captivating short story collections to have appeared in recent years…Experienced together, the collection reads as a sophisticated orchestration. So tightly interwoven are its themes, characters, and grim events that it is hard to imagine any one apart from the others…An absolutely dazzling triumph…Shankman’s skill for description paints the setting in brilliant detail…Many stories reward with ironic twists and indelible surprises…In the Land of Armadillos is a singularly inventive collection of chilling stark realism enhanced by the hallucinatory ingredient of top-drawer magical realism, interrogating the value of art, storytelling, and dreams in a time of peril and presenting hard truths with wisdom, magic, and grace.” —Jewish Book Council
“Moving and unsettling…Like Joyce’s Dubliners, this book circles the same streets and encounters the same people as it depicts the horrors of Germany’s invasion of Poland through the microcosm of one village…Shankman’s prose is inventive and taut…Her writing is simple and matter-of-fact, never maudlin or sentimental…A deeply humane demonstration of wringing art from catastrophe.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Richly rendered…Well-shaped and often word-perfect, boasting a clear narrative structure and a sure, signature voice…” —The Chicago Tribune
“In the Land of Armadillos has the magical elements its title suggests…The title story, with its sense of detached irony, mixed with tragedy and fantasy, simply takes your breath away…The collection ends on a positive note that succeeds in being hopeful without sentimentality. These are beautifully crafted, moving stories, haunting in the dark complexities they portray.” —The Chicago Jewish Star
“This is a book lover’s book, filled with beautiful language and textured scenes…There’s no forgiveness in these stories, but explorations of human nature. With bold originality, Shankman has created her own literary blend of history, folklore, fantasy, myth, spirituality and truth.” —The Jewish Week
“Every story in this remarkable collection reveals Helen Maryles Shankman’s talent for surprising, disturbing and enlightening her readers. Blending the horrors of war with the supernatural, she creates a literary landscape that is strangely mythical and distinctively her own. These stories haunted me for days after I finished reading them.” —Sarai Walker, author of Dietland
“Following in the footsteps of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Shalom Aleichem, Helen Maryles Shankman is an exquisite storyteller of early 20th century Eastern European Jewish life…Readers of In the Land of Armadillos will encounter vibrant tales of extraordinary people, good and evil, in a twisted, macabre life. Here, the old rules are no longer valid. Subjected to inhumane conditions, with brutality and death around every turn, Shankman’s characters alternately perpetrate and combat hatred while sliding inexorably toward a dark and surreptitious future.” —The New York Journal of Books
“What might otherwise have been an unbearable recounting of inhuman atrocities Shankman transforms through a prism that is by turns forthright and tender, oblique and intimate, brutal and ethereal…Though each story stands beautifully on its own, it is the completed tapestry of interwoven details that finally reveals the entire picture and provides the full emotional depth of the collected stories; the sum is unquestionably greater than the parts…The author’s greatest accomplishment is in leaving the horror to speak for itself, and instead giving voice to the enchantment.” —Historical Novel Society
“With unflinching prose and flashes of poetry Helen Maryles Shankman spirits her readers back through history to the Polish hamlet of Wlodawa during the dark days of Nazi occupation. Horrific reality and soaring fantasy meld in serial stories that include an avenging golem, an anti-Semite who shelters a Jewish child, brutal SS officers who lay claim to ‘their own Jews’ and an unlikely messiah “whose breath smelled of oranges and cinnamon.” That scent will linger in the memory of readers as will the haunting stories in which barbaric hatred is mitigated by the reflection of a survivor who reflects that “love is a kind of magic.” There is, in fact, literary magic in these well told tales.” —Gloria Goldreich, author of The Bridal Chair
“Populated with monsters and heroes [human and perhaps not], but mostly with ordinary people caught up in horrific events they neither understood nor controlled – this series of intersecting stories drew me in completely, making me read them again to find all the connections I missed the first time. The writing is fantastic, and I marvel at Shankman’s literary skills.”
—Maggie Anton, author of the bestselling Rashi’s Daughters trilogy
“In The Land of the Armadillos is a moving collection of beautifully written short stories that readers of Jewish fiction will celebrate. Not to be missed.”
—Naomi Ragen, author of The Sisters Weiss
“Shankman presents a typical German-occupied Jewish town in an atypical way: through the lens of several non-Jews and their individual transformations, or lack thereof. We come away with something new in literature—a full portrait of a war-torn Jewish town, where a nimble application of the magical gently veils the harsh realities.” —The Rumpus