Back All Hale! A chorus of critical praise greets an overlooked master

The wait is over!

One of the most eagerly anticipated Library of America releases in memory becomes available today with the publication of Where the Light Falls: Selected Stories of Nancy Hale, a selection of short fiction by a masterful twentieth-century writer whose work had, somewhat scandalously, fallen out of print in recent decades.

The book is edited and introduced by Lauren Groff, who is herself the widely acclaimed author of three novels and two short story collections. Read our exclusive new interview with Groff for a concise introduction to Hale and what makes her work overdue for rediscovery in the twenty-first century.

What makes Where the Light Falls especially notable for LOA is a wave of advance publicity—forgive us if we resort to the word “buzz”—that bodes well for Hale’s continued visibility. Early in 2019 Ann Beattie named it her “Most Anticipated Book 2019” for New York magazine, and this summer the Paris Review made it a Staff Pick, writing that “Hale’s stories are rich, delightful, and often strange . . . every sentence pulses with energy and specificity.”

The publishing trade magazines, which alert booksellers and librarians and others to must-have titles for the coming season, followed suit. Publishers Weekly, in a starred review, opined that “Hale’s insightful, artfully constructed stories remain irresistible—and relevant—today.” And Kirkus Reviews, also in a starred review, called the collection a “welcome reintroduction,” praising Hale’s stories as “classic examples of the art of short fiction, capturing the variety of human experience with sophisticated economy.”

Vogue subsequently included the “stunning, crystalline collection” in its “17 Books We Can’t Wait to Read This Fall” feature, adding that “Hale writes with a crisp realism that is almost deceptive in its simplicity; the power of her prose sneaks up on you.” In the Arkansas Democrat–Gazette, Philip Martin called Hale “simply a force,” and her stories “depth charges blooming silently, shaking your core.” Of the experience of reading Hale for the first time, Martin writes, “it is as though a new continent, teeming with strange life and color, has been discovered. We need to explore it.”

And just today, Esquire recommends Where the Light Falls in its “Best Fall Books of 2019” reading list: “Hale is our next Lucia Berlin—neglected in her lifetime, then rediscovered after her death. . . . Perceptive and luscious, these stories are unmissable.”

(Many readers will want to know more about Hale and her prodigious output after finishing Where the Light Falls. For the curious, we recommend Nancy Hale: On the Life & Work of an American Master, a 2012 entry in the Pleiades Press Unsung Masters Series.)

When Nancy Hale died in 1988, she was remembered by William Maxwell, another Library of America author and her editor at The New Yorker for many years, with this simple encomium: “Writing like that doesn’t age.” More than thirty years later, Where the Light Falls bears out that judgment.

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