Amy Knox Brown is a fourth-generation Nebraskan. Three Versions of the Truth is her debut short story collection and was a finalist for the 2008 Shenandoah/Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers. She is also the author of a poetry chapbook, Advice from Household Gods.
Instead of waiting until the end of my review, I’ll say it now: this book of 17 short stories is highly recommended. Go directly to the Press 53 website at www.press53.com and order this book now. You’ll discover an exceptional awar- winning storyteller who combines intelligent prose with entertaining style.
Amy Knox Brown writes of everyday happenings and, somehow, makes them seem exotic and new. And surprise, most of her stories are set in and around Lincoln, Nebraska, a place outsiders imagine to be bland and boring. With her crisp writing and personable style, even the most banal occurrence seems fresh and exciting once words reach the page: A failed professor returns to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and, ironically, finds the fame that eluded him in the Ivy League; the chilling destiny of a teenage couple is written in starry constellations seen so clearly from the plains at night; adultery and retribution teach young lovers truths they didn’t learn in law school; innocence and danger collide violently when a young girl becomes enamored of the wrong man. Sandwiched in between the longer stories are small intermissions, delectable short, short tales that add depth and dimension to the book as a whole. In one, Sitting Bull has the last word with the white devils he despises. In another, Wild Bill Hickok meets his end. Whether short or long, each story is different and engaging.
In Three Versions of the Truth, Amy Knox Brown writes of love, family dysfunction and devotion, fidelity, friendship, lust, failure, triumph, fear, courage, small miracles and grand accomplishments. This award winning writer knows how to tell stories that enthrall readers. One writing instructor said it best: “Amy Knox Brown writes about Lincoln as if it were Paris.”
Review by Laurel Johnson, Midwest Book Review
Booklist Praises Three Versions of the Truth
As its title suggests, the duplicitous nature of relationships-with lovers, family, friends, but most importantly, with one's own inner demons-is explored in all its tangled perplexity in Brown's vibrant debut collection of short stories set in her native Nebraska. As level on the page as the quintessential Great Plains landscape, Brown nonetheless reveals the dramatic peaks and valleys hidden within the interior terrain of her striking cast of everyday characters. From the college professor whose career takes a nosedive only to be saved by the publication of an ersatz self-help book in "Dr. Faustus in Lincoln" to the young woman contemplating the loss of a girlhood friendship in "Why We Are the Way We Are," Brown's protagonists are a preternaturally introspective lot, but their philosophical meditations make for revelatory reading. With fictional interludes of historical significance sprinkled throughout the collection like palate-cleansing dollops of sorbet, Brown serves up a savory homage to the place she calls home and to its myriad inhabitants.
— Carol Haggas
The stories in Three Versions of the Truth have a sweep and range that is remarkable for a first collection--from heartbreaking historical accounts to hilarious tales of contemporary manners--while at the same time they are clearly part of a singular, cohesive vision. Amy Knox Brown imbues her world with a devilish sense of humor and a deep, intelligent compassion; hers is a unique and memorable new voice that readers will treasure.
— Dan Chaon, author of Among the Missing and You Remind Me of Me
Amy Knox Brown's wonderful story collection, Three Versions of the Truth, is cause for celebration. She is a gifted writer with an incredible range in style and subject from a lonely man coming to terms with what's missing in his life to a teenage girl witnessing all too closely her parents' breakup, and many, many others in between. Her characters are alive and compelling; each story is a satisfying world to be entered and explored. Ms. Brown's native Nebraskan landscape flourishes on these pages—descriptions you want to read slowly and then again—but so does the domestic landscape of each and every home she enters, and most importantly the emotional and psychological landscape as her characters find their way time and time again to a satisfying resolution. Amy Knox Brown is a very talented writer who blends beautiful lyrical passages with a sharp wit and great sense of humor.
—Jill McCorkle, author of Carolina Moon and Creatures of Habit
These beautifully written stories, haunted by the past, are imbued with such an almost palpable sense of Nebraska, but like all the best fiction set in a particular region, Three Versions of the Truth plumbs universal truths of the human condition. Alive with closely observed, memorable characters in wise stories that are by turn funny and lyrical, Three Versions of the Truth is an important debut.
— Angela Davis-Gardner, author of Plum Wine and Forms of Shelter
Amy Knox Brown’s fiction is as full of beauty and grit as the Great Plains where much of it is set. Historical figures come to life in Three Versions of the Truth—Sitting Bull, Custer, Charlie Starkweather—as do the folks living their lives outside the scope of history’s lens, those ordinary folks from the world we know, or thought we knew, before Brown turned it inside out with her sharp wit, her careful observing, and her need to know the truths of the human heart. These stories, finely crafted, are luminous. They leave us more alive than we ever dreamed we could be.
— Lee Martin, author of The Bright Forever
Midwest Book Review Highly Recommends Three Versions of the Truth