Nebraska Center for Writers

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About Erin Flanagan


The Usual Mistakes
Copyright © 2005
by Erin Flanagan
U of Nebraska P
How to Buy

These characters may be the usual suspects, making the usual mistakes, but their stories are not the usual fare. Populated by pretenders, ex-cons, and wannabes who bend the rules, break the law, and risk everything to salvage their own hearts, the twelve stories in The Usual Mistakes conduct readers into a world where betrayal is just a beginning. Deception, infidelity, even death—where a person goes from there is the mainspring of Erin Flanagan’s fiction, and in the turns her characters take, we find rare insights: that we are often wedded to one another because of, not in spite of, our flaws and that this paradoxical connection may be cause for hope.
An impostor medical assistant and an ex-neo-Nazi, covered head-to-toe in swastika tattoos; a seemingly oafish but suddenly sympathetic husband and a boorish mother-in-law in need of comforting; a young boy who finds adulthood by learning to forgive: the characters in these stories are by turns inappropriate, outlandish, selfish, and kind, complicated in the ways only real people are. Though they ask for little and rarely get even that, they do astonishing things with whatever does come their way; and their stories, in Flanagan’s sure hands, never fail to surprise. — from the publisher

In league with AM Homes and Lorrie Moore, Flanagan is the best kind of writer — one who invites you to snuggle down with her work, makes you chuckle and nod your head, but never lets you get too comfortable. In these clever stories of love and betrayal, she twists the usual with the bizarre, the shocking with the familiar. With laugh-out-loud dialogue and heart-rending moments of awkward revelation, Flanagan takes the world of 'Midwestern nice,' turns it over her knee and spanks it until it screams out its dirty secrets. Then it cries and tells you what it hopes for. — Lisa Carey, author of Love in the Asylum and The Mermaids Singing

Readers, beware. In Erin Flanagan's smart, funny, impossible-to-put-down stories, terrible things happen to good people. Lives are upset and complicated debts incurred, but those events are just the beginning. Flanagan writes with bleak, searing humor about the survivors of collisions both physical and emotional, and her acute vision is startling, reminding readers that every loss is the beginning of a long, new story of healing and replenishing. — Erin McGraw, author of The Good Life

Both gentle and wickedly funny, the stories in The Usual Mistakes beautifully define lives not so well lived. Flanagan, showing great insight into the hearts and hopes of characters who have little left to lose, gives these stories buoyancy and intelligence, and allows the characters several delicious, irresistible moments of defiance. — Timothy Schaffert, author of The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters

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