Longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction
Mingling the earthy with the otherworldly, these ten stories chronicle ineffable events in ordinary lives.
In Kenan’s fictional territory of Tims Creek, North Carolina, an old man rages in his nursing home, a parson beats up an adulterer, a rich man is haunted by a hog, and an elderly woman turns unwitting miracle worker. A retired plumber travels to Manhattan, where Billy Idol sweeps him into his entourage. An architect who lost his famous lover to AIDS reconnects with a high-school fling. Howard Hughes seeks out the woman who once cooked him butter beans.
Shot through with humor and seasoned by inventiveness and maturity, Kenan riffs on appetites of all kinds, on the eerie persistence of history, and on unstoppable lovers and unexpected salvations. If I Had Two Wings is a rich chorus of voices and visions, dreams and prophecies, marked by physicality and spirit. Kenan’s prose is nothing short of wondrous.
About the Author
Randall Kenan (1963–2020) was the former chancellor of the Fellowship of Southern Writers and a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. He lived in Hillsborough, North Carolina.
Randall Kenan is an American master and If I Had Two Wings is his latest gift to us. These unforgettable characters cannot be confined to a page. They are real; they are flawed; they are beautifully human. Each gorgeous story contains a world in miniature and a human spirit in full flower.
— Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage
This is a riveting collection of stories with a vibrant cast of characters, both corporeal and fantastical, and a stunning sense of place. Stories—comic, tragic, and human; with themes of faith, fury, chicanery, miracles, and weather—swirl out from Down East North Carolina, touch down gently around the world, and come home to the magnetic center of Tims Creek. It was a pleasure to live in this book.
— Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State
Oh, the magic and music Randall Kenan brings to the page. He is a beautiful writer, full of surprises, and his latest masterful collection, If I Had Two Wings, is a mesmerizing showcase of his many talents. He can make poetry of pigs feet, deliver brilliant social commentary, illuminate the ghosts of a time and place, and leave you aching for childhood memories of comfort and longing.
— Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life
The slyly soulful Kenan takes his time between books. Now he rewards readers who have waited almost three decades for a return to his fictional Tims Creek, North Carolina... It is a feast. Ten artful stories conjure contemporary North Carolina, mouthwatering and matter-of-factly haunted.