Read excerpt at The Nervous Breakdown.
What Happened Here delivers a wildly different cast of characters living on the same block in North Park, San Diego, site of the PSA Flight 182 crash in 1978. The crash is history, but its legacy seeps in the stories of the neighborhood’s inhabitants, bringing grief, anxiety, and rebellion to the surface and eventually assists in burning clean the lives of those who live in the shadow of disaster. Amidst the pathos of contemporary life, humor flits through these stories like the macaws that have taken to the trees of North Park. The birds ensure that there’s never a dull moment in the neighborhood, and their
Praise . . .
“In clear, lucid prose, What Happened Here evokes a haunting sense of place—calling up a California you don’t often read about, with Californians you don’t often meet.” ~ Lionel Shriver, author of Big Brother: A Novel and We Need to Talk about Kevin, winner of the Orange Prize.
“…wonderful…ZoBell provides a rare glimpse into the myriad ways that shared tragedy can touch a community and the individuals who live there. The eleven stories in What Happened Here present us with a cast of fascinating, flawed, and luminous characters as we walk with them through the wreckage toward hope, regrowth, and hard-won truth.” ~ Bookslut, from Mary Aker’s introduction to her interview with Bonnie ZoBell
“I love the moment in each of these geode-like stories when the surface cracks open and what lies beneath—the clear quartz of kindness, the dolomite of tragedy, the chalcedony surprise of unlikely love—at last comes into the light.” ~ Roy Kesey, author of Any Deadly Thing
“ZoBell’s deep love and empathy for her characters is contagious….The characters, especially the narrator, in “What Happened Here” have been masterfully developed.” ~ Laryssa Wirstiuk, Necessary Fiction
“…alluring….What separates this collection from scores of other collections of short fiction is the individual strength of each story in the collection coupled with the inherent interconnectedness of all of them. Not only does the connectedness of the narratives create a greater, more satisfying narrative that transcends the sum of each particular story, but it also emphasizes the connectedness that the neighbors of North Park share in the much-later aftermath of the plane crash.” ~ Jacob Budenz, JMWW Journal
“The suggestion here is that it doesn’t matter if the beast is real if we let the fear takeover. ZoBell’s characters are stuck in a queer kind of indeterminacy: They’ve been marked by catastrophic events beyond their comprehension, and although they know the way forward, they can’t help but look back.” ~ Jim Ruland, San Diego City Beat
“Bonnie ZoBell’s luminously intersecting stories of artists, musicians, teachers and assorted shimmering misfits in a North Park neighborhood that happens to be the site of a historic plane wreck, beautifully chronicles the struggles of the living to survive–emotionally and physically–in the shadow of wreckage and ghosts. Her characters’ connections, madnesses, kindnesses and demons are startlingly poignant and resonant.” ~ Gina Frangello, author of A Life in Men: A Novel
“… the crash and the questions of how to best process the emotions about it are a shadow in all of the short stories in ZoBell’s book. It is how the characters deal with the darkness that is cast and whether they decided to step out into the sunlight that makes each story so interesting….It’s a tremendously well-written take on trying to understand that which we can never know about what shapes a life, and in turn, the very work of being human.” ~ Anna March, The Rumpus
“Readers may argue over whether the greatest strength of Bonnie ZoBell’s What Happened Here is the prize-winning prose or the full sympathy with which ZoBell gives life to her delightfully varied cast of characters (sour, sweet, canny, sexy, you name it; all of them linked by a gruesome tragedy). Cherry-pick later; first time through, read the whole big-hearted collection from beginning to end to savor how perfectly the romance of the last story informs the vision of the whole. ~ Elizabeth Evans, author of Carter Clay: A Novel
“The individual pieces are all satisfying reads—it’s just that the way that the pieces come together strikes me as even more magical. What Happened Here is a marvelous collection and I found myself wanting to reread it over and over to keep tracing both the literal and more symbolic links between the pieces.” ~ David S. Atkinson, PANK Magazine
“Bonnie ZoBell’s linked novella and story collection, What Happened Here, made me feel as if I’d lived all my life in San Diego’s North Park, whose inhabitants live and work in the long shadow of the 1978 airline crash that decimated the neighborhood. What is most extraordinary is the ease with which ZoBell at once accumulates the layers of a novelistic narrative and offers us beautifully written, compact stories with lives of their own. Like Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Red or Haruki Murakami’s After the Quake, ZoBell allows us a complete picture only through a nimble narrative triangulation between the many characters and stories. The hard-fought and bounded truth we see here is, I think, the truest kind of truth.” ~ Jerry Gabriel, author of Drowned Boy, winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction
“What Happened Here is a wise, lively celebration of the temptations we endure and the small victories we achieve, both individually and communally, under the shadow of transcendent events. Both her characters and her prose are fiercely alive. Their rage and spiky humor, their tenderness and forgiveness, weave through these fine stories like movements in a symphony.” ~ Robert Cohen, author of Amateur Barbarians and Inspired Sleep