A wry and moving debut short story collection from an extraordinary new voice in American fiction, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere crackles with energy, wit and, ultimately, hope. ZZ Packer’s characters are all too human in their struggle to find their own place in the world and include the evangelical Sister Clarice, a group of vengeful Brownies, young Spurgeon Bivens, who has just bailed his father out of jail, and Dina, a college student who undergoes an emotional awakening.
‘There are all kinds of writers in this world but there are only a handful of natural ones…ZZ Packer is one of them. She doesn’t appear to struggle at any point: full-bodied character, honest dialogue, comic brio and that essential, basic human empathy—all of these are conjured by her musical prose and rendered without false notes. She writes a short story with more complexity and kindness than most people can muster in their creaking 500 page novels. It is the kind of brilliance for narrative that should make her peers envious and her readers very, very grateful.’
‘Packer’s debut collection reminds us that no stylistic tour de force—or authorial gamesmanship or flights of language—can ground a story like a well-realized character. This is the old-time religion of storytelling, although Packer’s prose supplies plenty of the edge and energy we expect from contemporary fiction
‘Packer casts an eye both humorous and merciless upon her characters, putting them, in the tradition of Flannery O'Connor, to tests of faith, family, friendship, love, and self that can approach almost biblical dimensions…What these stories share is a keen feel for marginalized characters, for lives made vivid by the search for what sustenance can be found at society’s fringes. Packer’s insights into the black experience in America past and present offer fertile ground for her to explore in these incandescent yet tough-as-nails narratives.’
‘A debut collection that cuts to the bone of human experience and packs a lasting wallop.’
‘ZZ Packer razzles, dazzles, amuses, and touches in her glittering debut story collection…Drinking Coffee Elsewhere considers the experience of African-American girls and young women from an entirely fresh perspective: acerbic, satirical, hilarious, nuanced, as fiercely unsentimental and deliciously subtle as Jane Austen. Her prickly, sympathetic narrators are blessed and cursed by being just a bit smarter and more vulnerable than the world around them, and none of them miss a beat as they register the ways in which children and adults indulge in tiny self-deceptions and make the daily compromises necessary to protect themselves—and to survive—It’s a pleasure to watch the deftness with which Packer turns a phrase, and to experience the sharpness and compassion with which she confronts the complexities of race, class, age, sex, nationality, family ties, and the wrenching, heartening, inescapable problem of simply being human.’