A widow plans her husband's funeral feeling as much resentment towards him as grief. A mother believes her young son has the DNA of a long-dead ex-boyfriend. A woman becomes obsessed with a drifter who stands in the same spot every day in her neighborhood. A couple grieving a series of miscarriages set out to adopt in China, only to get pregnant again.
In thirteen stories that explore the complexities and messiness of faith, marriage, illness, and grief, Joann Smith's A Heaven of Their Choosing is a wise debut collection for fans of Grace Paley or Alice Munro.
"Reading A Heaven of Their Choosing is like touring a set of rooms inside the enormous house of fiction. At the center of each sits a character, often isolated and regretful, whose interior is revealed with a candor and dead-pan irony reminiscent of the stories of John McGahern and even Joyce. Like them, Smith knows how to invade people's privacy while keeping a steady eye on the everyday world around them. And sometimes, lives defined by boredom and limitation are lifted by event into insight and wonder. She is a writerly writer, whose stories will appeal to readers who wish to experience not just what happens next but how, sentence by sentence, it manages to happen at all."
--Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States 2001-3
"Joann Smith's A Heaven of Their Choosing is a collection of authentic, gut-wrenching, raw, hold-your-breath, can't-put-them-down, stories. There is a miracle in these pages that transports the reader to the place where art transcends us, a place where it is possible to simultaneously feel pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, and reach an epiphany: there is hope for us all. It is a collection one will return to again and again and again."
--Patricia Dunn, author of Rebels By Accident and Last Stop on the 6.
"I was riveted by A Heaven of Their Choosing. With a flair for mesmerizing irony inside of unerring truths, Smith delves into the power of language in our lives. From a wife's correspondence hidden in a honeymoon suitcase to a young employee at a gun shop's curiosity about a customer's choice of target, Smith delivers a collection of exquisite stories that will make you look at yourself and the choices in your life anew."
--Jimin Han, author of A Small Revolution and The Apology, forthcoming in 2023.