The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia
Copyright © 2010
by Mary Helen Stefaniak
Wonderfully seductive, one of those rare books you disappear into wholly. Itís joyous, shamelessly funny, heartbreaking, and page after page it gives you what you didnít expect. This is a novel youíll
want to hand deliver to a friend. David Long, author of The Inhabited World
Wonderfully engaging ... a great tribute to the power of education, strong women and the fine art of storytelling ... an intricate dazzling pattern of history and imagination and truth.
Jill McCorkle, author of Going Away Shoes
This novel has strong, long legs. I hope it walks forever. Besides delivering suspenseful, eloquently detailed, non-sentimental prose, it spoons out a big dose of clarity that America needs.
Clyde Edgerton, author of The Bible Salesman
Mary Helen Stefaniak is a born storyteller, with a fantastic gift for mingling the exotic and the ordinary, the comic and the heartrending. Her tale of drastic change coming to a small Southern town in
the 1930s is filled with wild incidents, vivid characters, and a surprise at every turn a delight to read. Lynne Sharon Schwartz, author of Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books
A heartfelt, redemptive, and irresistible novel. Stefaniak knows that every story is many stories, and she handles the complex tales of romance, family, race relations, and secrets with intelligence,
grace, and tenderness. John Dufresne, author of Louisiana Power & Light and Love Warps the Mind a Little
Stefaniak ... delivers a deeply engaging story from the heart of 1930s-era Threestep, GA, that manages to include stop offs in 1775 Baghdad and 1864 Savannah along the way.
The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia is a delightful story, at times funny, at times tragic but never dull. Once you
enter its pages and the world therein, it's hard to leave them for a less colorful
reality. Carol Bikak, Omaha World-Herald
Copyright © 1997
by Mary Helen Stefaniak
New Rivers Press
In this short story collection, Iowa writer Mary Helen Stefaniak
explores life in the late twentieth century. She gives the reader a tour
that includes the eccentric culture of a self-storage facility, letter from
an elderly woman to the columnist Mike the Mechanic, and a family
that must deal with the death of a neighbor's child. Stefaniak deftly
handles the details of the many recognizable if
surprising personalities of millennial America. from the jacket
What a joy these stories are! Spun from the stuff of
everyday life, they are carefully constructed, lovingly
sewn, and touched here and there by the miraculous.
Mary Helen Stefaniak knows her craft, and she is a
wonderfully humane writer. These are transformative
tales. Like the woman in "The Dress from Bangladesh,"
we slip into them, expecting the same old thing, and
suddenly, we shiver all over, as if touched by "an electric
tingle." The world around us is the same but we are
changed, our awareness heightened, our empathy
renewed. Sharon Oard Warner
Much like Bailey White but with more salt in her sauce,
Mary Helen Stefaniak spins stories on the wheels of the
laugh-out-loud neighborhoods in which we live. Read
these stories to your friends and loved ones, to the cop
on the corner or the regulars at the laundromat. You'll
love Stefaniak's fiction. James Harris, owner, Prairie
Lights Books, Iowa City, Iowa
In the nine stories that make up this admirable debut collection,
characters face the challenge of doing what they can to bridge the
distance between themselves and others. Whether it be a distance between
friends, family members, neighbors, genders, generations, or ethnic
groups, these stories feature well-intentined characters in situations
that tst their capacity for empathy. These are stories about what it means
to be human moral stories taht are never moralistic, wise and
generaous stories tahta re never didactic. ... These are important
stories, entertaining and ennobling, from a writer who has the gift of
making us feel less alone. Lee Martin, Prairie Schooner
In Self Storage and Other Stories, her accomplished debut collection,
Mary Helen Stefaniak presents
us with nine stories, gentle but forthright, wise without pedantry, and often laugh-out-loud
funny, that illustrate what it means to be human. Her characters, so well drawn that we
recognize them as ourselves or people we know, wrestle with moral choices, with the
knowledge that they are connected to others and that what they think and do makes a
difference. They try to follow the angels' advice to the poet Czeslaw Milosz, quoted
at the book's beginning, "day draws near/another one/do what you can."
Their efforts to do what they can are depicted in beautiful, deceptively simple prose,
peppered with images so vivid they can startle. Citation from the Banta Award
Mary Helen's own stories are luminously clear, yet deeply woven with the
core complexities of our own lives. To this reader, her stories seem to
swing in an
easy-handed, yet supremely skillful way between the tender and humorous
and the soulfully reflective. What's more, they are filled with the
people say to one another, and the real ways in which we say them.
"I like to write stories that don't require one to be literary to appreciate
them," said Mary Helen, "but that have a lot that is literary in them. After
all, the groundlings in Shakespeare's day could sit down in front and enjoy
the broad humor, but there was a lot more than that going on. Rarely do I
inflict my characters with a purely poetic consciousness, nor do I write
long passages of sublime description. Rather, I like to make characters who
are learning from each other in the course of the story, where each one
holds a part of the
answer." All of this comes true in "On the Coast of Bohemia," which
reads like a breath of fresh (sea) air. Meg Hill Fitz-Randolph,
Fairfield, Iowa, March 1995
Stefaniak is a writer who can successfully carry the ruminations of an
exceptionally wide variety of characters. Chelsea
The Turk and My Mother
Copyright © 2004
by Mary Helen Stefaniak
Hilarious and moving, a masterful debut novel about a Milwaukee immigrant family's secret history
for fans of Amy Tan and Carol Shields.
As mysterious, complicated, and improbable as any real family, four generations are brought to vivid life in pages
spanning the entire twentieth century, from the outer reaches of Siberia to the heartland of America.
Why does prudish Agnes nearly faint during a movie featuring Omar Sharif? Did she, or didn't she, make love with a
Turk or was he Croatian? back in the Old Country? Why didn't Uncle Marko ever write home after he was
in World War I? How did Grandmother come to know the blind Gypsy violinist Istvan, who turns up for a visit? As for
the Polish Kaszube girl, Georgie's first love was she his half-sister?
Warm, intelligent, and beautifully written, The Turk and My Mother
immerses the reader in the sheer, indulgent pleasure
of storytelling. A magisterial symphony in the form of a comic novel about immigrant life, inevitable death, and forbidden
love, this is a book sure to win the hearts of a large audience. from the publisher
Compulsively readable, brilliantly constructed, and laden with funny, flawed, unforgettable characters.
Sandra Scofield, author of Occasions of Sin: A Memoir
A journey across continents and history that is hilarious, heart-breaking, and deeply touching.
Jonis Agee, author of Acts of Love on Indigo Road and The Weight of Dreams
Breathes life into the hardships, secrets, and enduring love that bind an American family to its immigrant past.
John Smolens, author of Cold and The Invisible World
Sparkles with originality, humor and insight. ... I love this novel!
Elizabeth Stuckey-French, author of Mermaids on the Moon
Compulsively readable, brilliantly constructed, and laden with funny, flawed, unforgettable
characters, The Turk and My Mother reinvents the family saga and the art of
storytelling as we know it. Lan Samantha Chang
Lovingly crafted ...
Stefaniak's easy familiarity with the vernacular idioms of the old
country and the new, and her zestful, respectful ear for different
voices, create a world whose past, present and story-loving afterlife
are at once magical and grounded in reality. Publishers Weekly
A prim woman who swoons at the sight of Omar Sharif and a grandmother who
once traveled with gypsies are among the characters in this radiant debut,
inspired by Stefaniak's immigrant Milwaukee family. A novel rooted in
real-life characters and events, the story is narrated by the author's
octogenarian father, George Iljasic (who, in reality, died at age 59).
Tales of Iljasic's ancestors reveal a cast of colorful characters, from
his mild-mannered mother, Agnes, who had an affair with a tall, dark-eyed
Serbian war prisoner (who she thought was a Turk) to his grandmother
Staramajka, who enjoyed a spirited friendship with a blind violinist.
Fans of Amy Tan and Carol Shields will revel in the themes of remembrance,
forgiveness, family devotion and forbidden love. When daughter Mary
Helen returns to the Old Country in the wake of her father's death, she
discovers flesh-and-blood proof that at least one of his tales is true.
Or is it? In this warmhearted, inventive novel, the truth seems beside the
The mysteries of four generations of a Milwaukee immigrant family come to
light in The Turk and My Mother (W.W. Norton), based on the real-life
experiences of first-time novelist Mary Helen Stefaniak.
This multigenerational story tracks the
paths of a handful of Croatians forced by war and other hardships from
their Balkan village to Siberia and Milwaukee. ... [A] folksier ...
more down-to-earth version of [Doctor Zhivago]. New York Times
The remarkable characters in this novel, from Grandmother Agnes and her
mother-in-law, storyteller Staramajka, to the exiled Marko the
shoemaker, bring another dimension to family history. These wonderful
stories are the framework of cultural identity, the way we envision
ourselves in the past and the tales we whisper to our children before
bedtime. Spoken history is a cultural treasure, a precious commitment to
the continuity of ancestral folklore. And if reality is obscured by
myth, who is to say which is true? Curled Up with a Good Book
Mary Helen Stefaniak has written a magical, funny, and touching novel
about four generations of a Hungarian family whose lives span the globe and the
twentieth century, from
the wilds of Siberia to the streets of Milwaukee. Stefaniak is a graceful and compelling
storyteller who draws the reader into this family in a tale that is both comic and tragic.
Nebraska Center for the Book Newsletter
The book is comic, touching, erotic, sad, violent, innocent, harsh and crafty,
just like the world it describes. Ö Stefaniak's book tells their stories in a
poetic and gently humorous voice. Milwaukee Magazine
Mary Helen Stefaniak's vibrant Ö new novel, The Turk and My Mother, Ö
creates likable characters whose accounts of the old country and their all-too-human
attempts to arrange their lives in the New World are sensitive and engaging. Ö careful
and delightful craft. Chicago Tribune
"Magical, funny, and touching ... [A] compelling narrative about the extraordinary and
everyday music of family life." Midwest Book Review