In this astonishingly assured, exquisitely crafted debut collection, Anthony Doerr takes readers from the African coast to the suburbs of Ohio, from sideshow pageantry to harsh wilderness survival, charting a vast and varied emotional landscape. Like the best storytellers, Doerr explores the human condition in all its manifestations: metamorphosis, grief, fractured relationships, and slowly mending hearts. Most dazzling is Doerr's gift for conjuring nature in both its beautiful abundance and crushing power. Some of his characters contend with tremendous hardship; some discover unique gifts; all are united by their ultimate deference to the mysteries of their respective landscapes.
In "The Hunter's Wife," a hunter's profession is challenged when he learns that his wife can communicate with animal spirits. "For a Long Time This Was Griselda's Story" features two sisters in Idaho struggling to come to terms with the very different paths they have chosen, one traveling the globe with a sideshow and one remaining with her mother in their hometown. In "July 4th," a group of wealthy Americans enters a bet with a gang of British sportsmen: the first side to land the largest freshwater fish on each of the continents wins. The title story describes a blind marine biologist who isolates himself in a thatch-roofed kibanda in Kenya, only to be thrust into the spotlight when he accidentally discovers the cure for a fatal disease. Like all of Doerr's stories, it shimmers with beautiful language and transports readers to a perfectly realized, magical world of his own creation. The Shell Collector is an enchanting and imaginative debut by a young writer embarking on an important literary career.