Read The Dream Life of Astronauts: Stories by Patrick Ryan Online


For readers of Tom Perrotta and Lorrie Moore, this sharp and affecting short story collection takes place in and around Cape Canaveral, from the 1960s to the present day, showcasing Patrick Ryan s masterly understanding of regret and hope, marriage and family, and the universal longing for love.The Dream Life of Astronauts balances heartbreak with wry humor as its characteFor readers of Tom Perrotta and Lorrie Moore, this sharp and affecting short story collection takes place in and around Cape Canaveral, from the 1960s to the present day, showcasing Patrick Ryan s masterly understanding of regret and hope, marriage and family, and the universal longing for love.The Dream Life of Astronauts balances heartbreak with wry humor as its characters try to make sense of the paths they find themselves on. A would-be Miss America auditions for a shady local talent scout over vodka and Sunny D; a NASA engineer begins to wonder if the woman he’s having an affair with is slowly poisoning her husband; a Boy Scout troop leader, recovering from a stroke, tries to protect one of his scouts from being bullied by his own sons; an ex-mobster living in witness protection feuds with the busybody head of his condo board; a grandmother, sentenced to driver’s ed after a traffic accident, surprises herself by falling for her instructor.Set against landmark moments—the first moon launch, Watergate, the Challenger explosion—these private dramas unfurl in startling ways. The Dream Life of Astronauts ratifies the emergence of an indelible new talent in fiction....

Title : The Dream Life of Astronauts: Stories
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780812989724
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 272 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Dream Life of Astronauts: Stories Reviews

  • Larry H
    2019-02-04 10:50

    So let me make one thing clear before you make the decision whether or not to read this collection of short stories based on the title: despite taking place at or around Cape Canaveral (in some cases simply in the same Florida county), the majority of these stories have nothing to do with astronauts.While a few have the space program as a narrative thread within them (or at least mention something space-related in passing), for the most part, these well-written stories are about people who find themselves at a crossroads in their lives. Some are emotional, some are thought-provoking, and at least one was laugh-out-loud funny, and a few are interconnected with others in the collection.Among my favorites in the collection were: "Earth, Mostly," in which a woman who is raising her granddaughter finds herself assigned to a driver's ed class after a traffic accident and is attracted to the instructor; "Go Fever," which is about a man whose coworker is convinced his wife is poisoning him (but that's just the tip of the iceberg); "Miss America," in which an aspiring Miss America contestant is taken to an audition with a less-than-reputable talent scout, while she is dealing with upheaval in her own life and her mother's; "Fountain of Youth," about a man in witness protection from the Mafia now living in a retirement community and matching wits with the power-hungry head of the condo board; "The Way She Handles," which tells of a young boy whose parents' marriage hits a rough patch with the arrival of his carefree uncle; and the beautiful title story, in which a young man is drawn to a former astronaut and is unprepared for what comes next.While one or two of the stories didn't resonate for me as much as the ones I mentioned above, Patrick Ryan is a tremendously talented writer, and he created some memorable characters and situations I really enjoyed reading about. Although I felt that a few of the stories could have taken place anywhere and the connection with Cape Canaveral almost felt like an afterthought, it is the foibles of the human heart and our interactions with lovers, colleagues, family members, children, and strangers that powered these stories and imbued them with impact.I am continually amazed at the immense talent among those individuals writing short stories today, and Ryan definitely belongs in this community. If you like short stories, this is a collection worth reading, even if you're not a space enthusiast. I look forward to seeing what's next in his career.See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....

  • Melki
    2019-01-29 15:47

    "My grandmother's having sex with that driving school man.""Uh-oh," the bird man said.Mrs. Kerrigan's grip went slack, causing Steve to tilt to one side. "Do you even know what that means?" she asked Becca."There's a thing, and a hole, and the thing goes in the hole ---""Never mind! I know you're going through a hard time right now, Becca. I think maybe you're angry at your parents for not staying together, and you're angry at your mother for travelling so much.""She's not traveling. She moved to California.""Okay, then you're angry at her for moving to California. But that doesn't mean it's okay to take it out on your grandmother.""I can't stand that witch," Becca said. "She smells like hairspray and she farts.""Your grandmother is a good friend of mine, and I happen to know she's doing the best she can.""She doesn't even like you," Becca said. "She told me you're lonely. And sad."Mrs. Kerrigan's chin quivered for a moment.*Becca, her smelly grandmother, and Mrs. Kerrigan are just a few of the many quirky characters who populate Ryan's tales of strange, disenchanted, and lonely folks who live in and around Cape Canaveral. Most of his players are not particularly likable. There are cheating spouses, creepy lechers, ex-mobsters, bullies, brats, and swinging former astronauts. Though they're all leading the proverbial lives of "quiet desperation," most of them have chosen not to go down without a fight. Their struggles to rise above their current problems are frequently touching and humorous.While these stories are probably not for everyone, I truly enjoyed all of them, and would be more than happy to read 'em again.*from Earth, Mostly

  • Jill
    2019-02-06 13:05

    A short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger. So said Stephen King. I am a lover of short stories and I’ve found that that kiss can be anything from a brief (too dry to care), sloppy (too undisciplined) or intense (need a bit of distance).Patrick Ryan gets the formula just right. He’s a natural-born storyteller and I loved every single one of these nine touching stories. All of them take place around Cape Canaveral as public enthusiasm for the NASA space program was dying down. And each is about individuals who have been left at the launching pad, trying to build propulsion for take-off.My favorites? The eponymous story The Dream Life of Astronauts introduces us to Frankie, a teenage boy who is remarkably comfortable in his own skin after coming out to his family. At a public library, he meets a former astronaut, Clark Evans, who is now out of the NASA program and touts real estate business cards that read: “I’ll travel the galaxy to meet your needs.” What happens next is a painful and unexpected look at suburbia and the chasm between innocent youth and cynical adulthood.We will meet Frankie one more time in this collection, in the equally fine story Earth, Mostly. He’s grown up now, yet has moved back to his mother’s home. That story – which also features characters we’ve met in a former story Miss America – cuts right to the chase by portraying ordinary life with all its foibles (including a grandmother who has arranged to meet her married driving instructor after crashing her car).There are more delights in store for the reader as well. One story portrays a bookkeeper of an extortion program who lives in a Florida retirement home under the witness protection program and clashes with the anal-retentive head of his condo board. There’s a great story about a NASA engineer who is romancing his boss’s wife…and wondering if she’s trying to poison that boss. Whether he’s writing about a 70-year-old man who finally reaches closure with his toxic 92-year-old mother or two bullying teen brothers and their stroke-impaired father, Patrick Ryan’s characters ring authentic.The strength of this collection was such that I wanted to read it straight through without pause. This space-era collection is decidedly down to earth. 4.5 stars.

  • Carrie
    2019-02-10 10:57

    Enjoyable collection of short stories that draw the reader in from the start. I like how some of the minor characters return as the main character in later stories, usually taking place years down the road. Nice way of tying some of the stories together. Wonderful description too. Not a collection to read if you want only happy endings, however. But at least they're realistic endings.

  • Bonnie Brody
    2019-02-17 16:40

    Patrick Ryan's collection of short stories, 'The Dream Life of Astronauts', takes on several universal themes. The characters he evokes often appear in more than one story, usually after a passage of time. All of them are searching for ways to find more meaning in their lives, often sliding backwards as they try to go forward. The protagonists are often troubled by addiction, family dysfunction, divorce or loneliness. The one thing they have in common is that they all live in Florida near Cape Canaveral. In the title story, Frankie is a 16 year old boy who has come out to his family. He goes to the library to hear a retired astronaut speak and is invited to the astronaut's home. What follows is a sexual gambit that is entirely unexpected by Frankie.'Go Fever' takes place after the Challenger disaster. Wendell is a supervisor at the launching site who believes that his wife Loretta is trying to poison him. The story is told from the viewpoint of an employee and friend of Wendell's who just happens to be having an affair with Loretta.'Fountain of Youth' is a delightful story about a man in witness protection who is now residing in a retirement community. He states "Life is fickle, you know? You can be somebody one minute and nobody the next, full of yourself in the morning and empty as a tapped well in the afternoon. I don't know who I am anymore, but sometimes, just for a second, I know who I want to be." This excerpt pretty well summarizes the feelings of many characters in this collection.I loved several other stories in this collection and liked the author's frequent technique of switching narrators within the story. It is interesting to see characters from early stories return in later ones. Frankie, courted by an ex-astronaut as a teen-ager, returns in a later story as 'bird man', a young man who is obviously mentally ill and may be suffering from AIDS. In this same story, we meet the mother of the teen-ager in 'Miss America' who is now raising her daughter's child. I can't name my favorite story because I loved so many of the nine in the collection. I read the book in one day and I felt that there was a power house of inner worlds and puzzled characters all facing the human condition, attempting to succeed when they were prisoners of fate more frequently than choice.

  • Mary Lins
    2019-01-24 11:51

    “The Dream Life of Astronauts”, a short story collection by Patrick Ryan, captured me with the very first story. “The Way She handles”, is set in the summer of 1973 during the Watergate hearings. I remember it well and appreciated all the references, and I even felt a little rush when the love song from “The Poseidon Adventure” was mentioned and I knew what that was (“The Morning After” by Maureen McGovern”) and then spent the rest of the day trying to get that tune out of my head!Most of the stories are set in the 1970s and all are set in or around Cape Canaveral and mention the US Space Program. I have worked at the Johnson Space Center here in Houston for over 26 years, so I appreciated many of the details. It’s rare to like every single story in a short story collection, but in this case, I did enjoy each and every one. Though the longest story, “Miss America”, was my favorite. It’s about 16 year old Dani, who aspires to being Miss Florida and then Miss America one day. Her stepfather has just left her mother, who is not handling it well (whatever that looks like). Her mother suddenly wants them to be “friends” but Dani has a secret and needs a mother very much. “The Dream Life of Astronauts”, is about a young man named Frankie and his burgeoning sexuality. Later in the collection, as story called “Earth, Mostly” links and continues both Dani and Frankie’s stories.Ryan is an absolutely wonderful writer, often his descriptions (two brothers who are bullies, or a wife that may-or-may-not be poisoning her husband) are both hilarious and harrowing at the same time; not easy to pull off! I’ll be eagerly watching for more from Patrick Ryan in the future.

  • Kasa Cotugno
    2019-02-15 17:46

    The area around Cape Canaveral, consisting of several long islands, contains a population not all connected to the Space Center, but affected by its proximity in different ways. I was reminded of stories set in and around, say, Las Vegas, in which people leading ordinary lives cannot help but be associated with the Strip even if they never set foot there. Each of these 9 stories presents a character recognizable in their human qualities. Ryan's writing style is smooth, his situations, distinct. The timeline runs from the 1960's to the present, and in some there is overlap, characters showing up decades later in surprising ways, so the trajectory of their lives can be followed, in many cases, poignantly. The people in these stories may not always be sympathetic. There are cases of bullying, by children against other children, children against parents, in one memorable instance, a mother against her son's cancer stricken wife. And the resolutions are far from cliched. One of my favorite stories actually made me laugh out loud -- a member of the Chicago mob in the Witsec Program finds himself in a retirement community under a different name, but still recognizes his former self when he looks in the mirror. That actually was the only story that made me laugh. The others made me think.

  • Lori
    2019-02-04 15:03

    I was a goodreads first reads winner of "The Dream of Astronauts:Stories.This is a book of short stories. Most take place in Florida in and around Cape Canaveral.Most of the stories take place around big historical moments, such as Watergate, In 1969 at the time of the rocket sent up for the moon landing. the Challenger explosion. A teenage boy watched the arrival of his hippie uncle and the slow break up of his parent's marriage. A foster girl lives on a farm around the time of the first moon landing. A teenage girl dreams of being in a Miss America pageant.A boy scout leader is sad to see his own so bully another boy. There are many other stories as well. They span from 1969 up to the early 2000's. Some stories are tragic others humorous. I liked the stories. I liked that some took place around important times in history.

  • Helen Marquis
    2019-02-03 14:41

    An excellent collection of short stories with a common thread of the Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The characters are all drawn from the lower rungs of success, with failed careers, marriages and relationships, populating the pages, set against headline news events such as the Watergate scandal, and more poignantly, the Challenger disaster.Ryan's characters are all instantly memorable, despite their seemingly normal existences, due to his incredibly evocative writing style. He picks instantly recognisible traits in people, so you feel you know the characters from the off, meaning the reader is engaged and invested in their stories.A hugely enjoyable collection of wonderful stories. Highly recommended.

  • Debbie
    2019-01-26 15:51

    This was an unusual and entertaining book of short stories. They all take place in the Cape Canaveral area of Florida in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Most deal with dysfunctional families and I enjoyed how some of the same characters would show up in a later story under very different circumstances. The stories immediately grab your attention. Here are 2 of my favorite opening sentences:“We never would have laid eyes on Ike if his dad hadn’t gone to sleep on a pair of railroad tracks somewhere in Jacksonville.”“About a month after Challenger blew up, Wendell Troup told me his wife was trying to poison him.”I will definitely be on the look-out for more books by Patrick Ryan.

  • S. Shirley
    2019-01-20 16:51

    This is a wonderful collection of funny, insightful, and sometimes heartbreaking stories. Ryan has a knack for describing the ordinary in a way that is anything but. His prose absolutely sings and his love for his characters shines through, even when their behavior isn't all that lovable. A brilliant read–I couldn't put it down.

  • Leslie
    2019-02-03 14:41

    Fast read. Storytelling that feels like the work of someone who really understands the craft. Many of these stories ruminated on the domino effect of cruelty - how one hurt makes the victim lash out at another. I liked that. My favorites were the title story, which was really clever and suspenseful, and then the last - You need not be present to win, which was the most emotionally resonant.

  • Dede Ward
    2019-01-17 11:42

    Loved this! Great voices, great humor. Captures a time in America I remember well. I don't typically read short story collections, but I found myself looking forward to each new story. I will say there is a bit of unevenness here--some of the stories were standouts, and one or two were not. But that seems to be par for the course with short story collections. I love humor and pathos in equal measure and this had both.

  • Thor Balanon
    2019-01-20 14:43

    More 4.5. A surprisingly strong collection of lives that never really take off but like the Challenger, are glorious in its mess.

  • Rebecca
    2019-02-17 13:08

    I received a free copy of this e-book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. I requested this book because the blurb said it deals with people and situations around Cape Canaveral in the 1960’s. I am a gigantic space nerd, and I love anything that has to do with the space program of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. This short story collection sounded perfect. I began reading and found myself wanting to put it down forever at about 20% done. I pressed on, because I knew I had to review it, and I wanted to judge it fairly. In the end, I really regret requesting this book. I hated every single character in this book. Even the one or two adults who weren’t terrible people were forgettable and sad. The teens were annoying and the adults were so self-absorbed and despicable, I didn’t care if the whole lot of them died at the end. Even the children were jerks. The actual stories themselves seemed shallow. There was nothing in them beyond dialog and the banalities of daily life. I was not touched or moved by anything in any of the stories. I hate to give negative reviews, but this truly is one of the worst books that I have ever read. If you are thinking of picking up this book because it talks about astronauts and Cape Canaveral, do yourself a favor and run far away from this mess.

  • Mary
    2019-02-09 16:01

    Really solid collection. Ryan writes well from the POV of the elderly. I liked the second half--beginning with "Fountain of Youth"--more than the first, particularly "Go Fever," "Earth, Mostly," and "You Need Not Be Present to Win." Some people complained that there weren't enough astronauts in the collection, but I thought there were plenty of astronauts, that it was perfectly adequate on the astronaut front. Perhaps these readers should read a nonfiction book that is actually about astronauts. Some bits I loved: "As I combed my hair, I thought about how an affair can turn into a microcosm of whatever you're trying to escape.""Monopoly, Becca knew from experience, took hours to play and ended in crying.""Life is fickle, you know? You can be somebody one minute and nobody the next, full of yourself in the morning and empty as a tapped well in the afternoon."

  • Dave Purcell
    2019-02-01 17:52

    I made it through the first two stories, which were like a cross between Family (minus cute Kristy McNichol) and Afterschool Specials (minus the absurd humor..."I can fly!"). Completely puzzled by the glowing reviews. It's hard not to get annoyed when this is so pedestrian and my wife, an unknown writer, has so much better material that is undiscovered.

  • Debbie
    2019-01-24 11:00

    I received this book from Goodreads for a review.I read this book, but I can not say I enjoyed it. The stories were all very dark and they all left me feeling sad. I thought these were astronaut stories, but they are stories that are set in the Cape Canaveral area with some loose ties to NASA.Maybe other people will enjoy this book, but it is not a good match for me.

  • Jo
    2019-02-17 13:52

    Some really great short stories, with a real sense of place. I was distracted by how some of them intersected but not all of them. I hope the author writes a novel, there seemed to be larger stories to tell.

  • Lucy Bledsoe
    2019-01-25 09:56

    Stunning stories. Compelling, unique, and beautifully written. Ryan's ability to write from so many diverse points of view blows me away. Besides, I LOVE the title of this collection.

  • Kaitlin
    2019-02-14 17:58

    Confession time: my fellow readers will tell you that I don't really like short story collections. I don't know what it is, I've just never really cared for them. I like some of the biggies, sure: George Saunders, Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman. But for the most part I just prefer getting lost in a novel. The Dream Life of Astronauts hasn't changed my mind, exactly. But it's made me feel bad for throwing so much shade the way of the story collection.I decided to read this book at this moment for an incredibly insulting reason - I had to sit around my new apartment all day waiting for the wifi guy and the couch delivery guy, and figured that I could easily put down a book of short stories since there are a lot of good stopping places. I know that's a shitty reason to read a book - sue me, I'm a realist with a mind for transparency. I read 85% of this book in that one day, and I barely put it down to eat. I haven't done that since I was a kid and the latest Harry Potter book came out (the Cheeto fingerprints on the pages of my first edition Goblet of Fire are testament to that).The stories in The Dream Life of Astronauts all take place near-ish to Cape Canaveral and, while the space program is often involved in the stories, it's used as a backdrop for the lives of the damaged characters who live near it. Every one of Patrick Ryan's characters is broken, in one way or another. They try their best to reach beyond themselves (to the stars? Sorry.), but they are ultimately earthbound (sorry). Even the cover is reminiscent of the space theme - its an old TIME mag picture of people watching a shuttle launch, but you don't see the rocket. Just all these people, watching, talking amongst themselves.The most stellar (SORRY I promise I'm done) thing about this book though, in my opinion, is how Patrick Ryan writes his young characters. I have this thing with young characters - when they're done well, it sells a book for me. But usually, they're not. I can't tell you how many times I've been reading a book with a child as a narrator and been so disappointed because of how obvious it is that an adult wrote it. Children and young adults are the narrators or focus of a lot of the stories in the collection, and every single one of them is incredible, from the Hardy Boys-reading narrator of the very first story, to a paranoid young man who finds himself in the most uncomfortable situation I could possibly imagine (who comes back in another story, to talk to a little girl who is ALSO beautifully crafted).I've read something like thirty books this year. I feel like I haven't read this much since I started college - stuff I chose, anyway. When you do your senior seminar of Infinite Jest, you don't have a lot of time for leisure reading. And like I said, story collections aren't usually high on my list. The year is far from over, but this is the best book I've read in 2017 so far. I don't know if it'll be the best book I read when December rolls around. But it'll definitely be the best one I read this summer.TL;DR: READ THE DAMN BOOK. Just do it, seriously. Right now. It just came out in paperback like a week ago, go!

  • Doctor Moss
    2019-02-07 10:43

    This is a collection of nine somewhat intertwined short stories, set around Cape Canaveral, Florida around the heyday of the space program. Ryan sticks close to reality, while moving and living through its fringes just enough to provide a sense of exploration but with the occasional thud of a reality-check.Ryan has an easy touch. These are not lighthearted stories, nor are they heavy. But they do get to the soul of the characters involved. The title story traces an encounter between a gay teenager, Frankie, and an astronaut, Clark, who hasn’t actually flown a space mission. Clark is attracted to Frankie, but not in the way Frankie would like, and he can’t really deliver on his astronaut status either — reality disappoints.But Frankie bears on, and he reappears in another, interlinked story, Earth, Mostly. Frankie’s eccentricities don’t die, and he lives on to carry the torch for more slightly endearing, slightly disturbing eccentricities in that story.These are stories of people who live next to, but not in, the spotlight, in this case, the spotlight of the space race. They inspire the kind of empathy and compassion that levels us all out.It’s a good book for getting in touch with the core, basic human eccentricities that actually put us all in the same boat. The things that make us weird are the things that make us normal.

  • Naomi
    2019-01-22 17:06

    Disclaimer: I received this book for free through a Goodreads' giveaway.I'm hit or miss with short story collections. Either I speed read through the stories without paying too much attention, or they immediately draw me in so I'm entirely engrossed. This short story collection fits the second scenario. I took my time reading the stories, so I could try to find the connections between the different characters (some of the characters are featured/mentioned in multiple stories) and to let the words sink in. The stories are depressing, as they center around desperate people who no longer have dreams. The characters are mostly unlikable, but they're realistic and relateable. You can't help but root for (most of) them as the reader, although if they fail, it's not surprising. My favorite is "The Way She Handles," although I have a hard time trying to describe why (especially without spoilers). It's not a happy story, and my view of the characters, especially the father, shift by the end. At the end of the story, the main character's father and his planned speech is one of the saddest and sweetest scenes described in the entire collection.I recommend this collection to anyone who loves short stories or compelling reads that bring up complicated topics dealing with friendship, family, and dreams.

  • Aina
    2019-01-31 13:06

    Sometimes you pick up a book and the reading is so easy it almost feels like cheating. This is how I feel with this collection. The writing is effortless, the characters natural and the stories grounded. Despite the title, the stories are not about astronauts - in fact only a few deal with the space program at all. But the characters live in that world. A world where one man can go to space, while another struggle just to live. I didn't know that the stories would take place over the years or that some of them are connected, but I enjoyed it. My favourite would be the title story, about a boy who idolises an astronaut only to learn that even spacemen have flaws. It is funny, heartbreaking but with an uplifting ending. I think it captures this collection perfectly.

  • Jason X
    2019-01-29 16:10

    This collection of short stories is perhaps a glimpse of what the Drive-By Truckers catalogue might cover if they were from Eastern Florida instead of Northern Alabama and Space City. I was expecting something "All American" and instead got something nearer to American Southern Gothic. These are plainly written can't look away stories of the lost, the lame, the licentious, and the lecherous set in the shadow of Cape Canaveral.

  • Jim Stark
    2019-02-16 16:46

    The writing is good, and if you are looking for a perceptive view of the bleak, every-day life of families, you may enjoy this. I found the stories to be mostly pointless--describing situations I know exist, but without enough insight or unique writing to make up for the depressive feeling that go with hearing about them.

  • Gayle Lafser
    2019-01-30 17:58

    Its one of those books when you say just say no. I will admit I did not read all the short stories but what I did read left me questioning my taste in picking out good reads. Don't waste your time on this one.

  • David
    2019-01-25 15:53

    A neat set of short stories about people who live around Cape Canaveral. Only one character is an astronaut. All stories are touching, some make you wonder. Characters from earlier stories show up in later stories. Fun.

  • Blake Kanewischer
    2019-01-31 15:54

    This collection of short stories set in and around Florida, at the epicentre of the US space program, is a little bit of a mixed bag. Some of the stories transport you to a time and place in a delicious, engaging way, while others needed a couple readings to really cement them in my mind.

  • Steve Williams
    2019-01-17 09:47

    lots to admire here, but i especially liked the way all the stories--even the few i didn't get too into--felt lived-in, like the writer really took the time to figure out these characters and their worlds. no swoop-ins here. highlights for me are miss america and the title story.