Luck Favors The Prepared review: Amazon Customer

So many great words

What spectacular sentences! What inspired construction, tossed out with cavalier abandon! And WORDS! So many great words, some joined into elegant adjectival clauses: Like his turgid clogs and kissy embouchures shared in the chapped summer air of the Northwest, Nathaniel Barber's stories have three-dimensional plotting ripped from his well-examined life experiences. Barber's compact storytelling is compelling, filled with breathtaking contradictions, and will grow upon you like unsolicited robotic advances. Buy it now. Read it now. You won't be sorry.

Amazon Customer

Luck Favors The Prepared review: Sarah @ All The Book Blog Names Are Taken

Rating: 4 Stars

This is an interesting collection of short stories ranging from observations on death, family, high school, divorce, and a variety of other topics. At times I could not seriously believe that all of these things could have happened to one person. And that's coming from someone who has had her own share of experiences that also border on the comically devastating. This is not a linear memoir of Barber's life, but moments in time that have at least partially defined who he is, or is not.

I have a couple favorite stories from this collection, though all are strong in their own ways. I don't want to spoil too much so all I will say is that one of my favorites is that of the author's first attempt at being a landlord. The home he and his ex-wife shared is the home he offers up as a rental property for a family who turn out to be the exact nightmare I envisioned, were I ever to attempt it myself. Things start out normal enough, but quickly take a turn for the weird - and worse. The wife turns out to be a total psycho and you can't help but both cringe and chuckle at her insanity. Of course, were I the author, I definitely would not have been laughing. But that is the beauty of the author's writing, the way he presents them are at least in part, an attempt at humor and he is most often successful. It may not always be a laugh-out-loud humor, but readers will appreciate the wit and dry humor to be found in this collection. As the stories are snippets of his own life, that humor often comes at the author's own expense, and you will be glad that many of these experiences are not your own.

As mentioned before, the stories are not told in a linear fashion. Barber jumps around back and forth in his life, sharing these stories that all have one thing in common: him. There are loose threads tying some together, but for the most part they are stand-alones, stories you might share sitting around the table with your friends, recounting some of the more embarrassing or oh-my-gosh moments in your lives.

Barber is a gifted storyteller, in the most frustrating of ways. In some of the stories, I was waiting for the punchline, thinking surely it could not end the way I perceived it was ending. Yet I ended up swiping the age with no resolution at all. I wanted to know more, I HAD to know more, and I was left hanging. The difference here is that the stories were strong enough that I still cared to know what happened, after the initial WTF passed. In the past I have read stories told in a similar way. Sometimes I cared to know what happened after the words on the page ended, and some I did not. For many of these stories, these tales of family and friends, an ex-wife, a brother who was both a friend and a foe, I had to know more. It is his use of silence that is as powerful as the words he does give, that keeps drawing the reader in.

These stories are real, and real-life is messy. There is not always a happy ending, within sunshine and roses and puppies. You might find yourself questioning how all of these misadventures could happen to one person, but the way in which they are told confirms that they indeed did. Perhaps some of the stories contain embellishments, perhaps not. In the end that does not matter, because even at their tamest, some are still bordering on unbelievable. You'll laugh, cringe, wonder how the hell some of these people function in daily life, and then want to give Barber a hug. Highly recommended.

via Sarah at All The Book Blog Names Are Taken

Luck Favors The Prepared review: Paddy Eger

Step into Nate's world.

Nate's storytelling keeps the reader delightfully off-balance and asking questions: Did this really happen? Is Nate exaggerating and pulling my reader's brain open? Could one guy face so many off-beat situations and survive to write about his unique experiences with such candor?

The answer is yes. He's uniquely observant, creates fresh metaphors and has opened his life up to scrutiny in a funny yet often serious look into personal choices as well as friends and family dynamics that compel you to keep reading story after story. (One thing to remember: don't ask him to make you a pair of plaid pants!)

Paddy Eger

luck Favors The Prepared review: Amazon review Marilyn Johnson

If you're a fan of The Moth Radio Hour or This American Life, this book is for you. I burned through the pages quickly, captured by one story after another. In the final analysis I found that the stories had a weave to them. The warp and weft were equal parts vulnerability and humor, with a brilliant timing that carried the reader along before any inclination to pass judgment could settle in where it didn't belong. Kudos to Mr. Barber for a first book that leaves me wanting more.

Marilyn Johnson

Luck Favors The Prepared review: Amazon customer, Bikekitty

I really enjoyed this collection of memoir-flavored (non)fictional short stories. Humorous, page turning and downright delightful.  Even though they're not linked to each other, and not presented in chronological order, the reader gets a sense of who the author is because of a unified voice throughout. Everyone in my book club, who normally tears many books to shreds in their critiques, enjoyed the book too. Kudos!

Amazon customer, Bikekitty

Luck Favors The Prepared review: Luke Barrett

Sometimes when you finish a work of non-fiction, your first reaction goes something like -- was this actually good? Or was it just a recounting of some actually crazy events? Would "Running with Scissors" have been as compelling if Augusten Burroughs had led a boring vanilla childhood?

As it turns out, Nate Barber really is that good. Perceptive yet introspective, he adds just enough to whip the truly mundane up into shocking absurdity, but is gentle enough to tamp the truly shockingly absurd back down to dark humor. Well worth the read.

Amazon customer, Luke Barrett

Luck Favors The Prepared review: Amazon Customer, Wexler

I've just finished this captivating and colorful book and have given it a wholehearted 5 star rating. The stories had me cycling between belly laughing and melancholy/teary-eyed states, at times within a single paragraph. I have recommended the book to my husband as well, who will fully appreciate Nathaniel's ironic sense of humor and keen ability to illuminate the absurdities of workplace middle management. One of the many highlights for me was the mad nighttime chase through a forested Lynnwood, WA neighborhood, a story which vividly transported me back to the magical days of childhood.

-Wexler, Amazon customer

Luck Favors The Prepared review: HC Newton

If the title is true, Nathaniel Barber was/would have been one of the worst Boy Scouts in the world. You don’t have to read many of these non-fiction short stories to decide that luck and Barber are, at best, passing acquaintances. Which is probably good — they make for better reading that way (Barber, might disagree about the “good” there — it is his life).

These stories don’t detail his life, they give you glimpses into experiences that have stuck with him for one reason or another, and largely they resonated with me. For example, his first (disastrous) experience with being a landlord. His goals for it were pretty much what I’d envisioned the time or three I thought about trying it. How it turned out for him, is pretty much what I feared would happen to me. A lot of what happened to him as a band geek made me think of what it was like when I was one (thankfully, it was a little tamer for me). I’ve never had a coworker like Dale Kendrick, but I can name one or two individuals that easily could’ve been. 

Not all of his stories are those the reader will be able to identify with — but there’s something in his telling of them that will allow you to see yourself in that situation, and feel the humanity.

There is one important difference between his life experiences and mine — or most readers’ — his are funny. Or at least the way he’s able to present them is (probably more the latter than the former). Not always in a laugh-out-loud way, sometimes it’ll just be a wry smile, or shake of the head. But Barber’s been able to mine the humor in most of these situations — frequently at his expense.

Each story has a different feel to it, so even though they’re all about the same central character, they’re individual stories. They don’t all flow chronologically — he jumps back and forth though his life, you won’t walk away with a “life story” or anything, you’ll just get a good understanding of various points in his life. It’s like sitting around a table with an old friend, “Did I ever tell you about the time . . . ”

Barber’s writing chops are evident throughout this, whether he’s going for economy of words:

Against the advice of my lawyer and stern warnings from my therapist, I accepted Elsbeth’s invitation to lunch.

or if he’s going for a visual that will stick with you: 

Mr. Millson was a short, puggish man. He was skinny except for a cantaloupe gut he not only ignored but allowed to lend heft to his wagging swagger. He was short and compensated for this with a simmering, constant temper, always fired up and red-faced. Even when he was just trying to schmooze an extra scoop of Jell-O from the lunch lady. His lips were not lips, but the absence of lips. Sweaty flaps, really. Fleshy bits of face he pursed to a thin, kissy embouchure under a bulbous, alcoholic nose. 

you get exactly the idea he was going for — this isn’t some sort of arty-ambiguity here, it’s a precise brushstroke. He wants you to feel what he felt, he wants you to see what he saw — and he wants you to at least grin about it. Sometimes he’s not that subtle; infrequently, he could be more skillful about it — but he’s hitting his targets, he’s evoking memories about embarrassments of our youth, empathy over similar struggles of young adulthood, or a slight feeling of dread knowing that’s exactly how you’d react in that situation. Thankfully, he generally wants that to be followed with a chuckle.

Creative, distinctive, amusing — this collection will leave you wanting to see more from Nathaniel Barber, while being very glad you have this. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion and participation in this book tour. I appreciated the book, but my opinions expressed are my own.

HC Newton- The Irresponsible Reader

Luck Favors The Prepared review: Amazon customer Scapegoat

Nathaniel Barber's power lies in telling the story without explicitly telling the story. His prose tugs at the seams, outlines the edges, and hints at a larger, more terrible truth beyond the surface of each piece. The reader is not welcomed through the front doors of the house, but led instead through a meandering path which offers us only furtive glimpses through the windows. There we find a lovingly rendered portrait of the author's complicated family, larger-than-life caricatures of actual band teachers, tenants, and co-workers, comedies and tragedies, all rolled up in what ultimately reads as a celebration of a life fraught with misadventures. These stories are wildly entertaining, yet they hum with a quieter magic, and though they are plucked from seemingly random times and places in the author's experience, there is a purpose to their order. In these stories, time is bent and folded and rearranged to highlight a narrative truth running through the pages. A room in France is stained with blood from a mosquito-killing spree, while in the next apartment, two stories over, the walls are stained with blood from an injured bird's rescue, and through this connection a heart-aching story of brotherhood begins to emerge. We are not shown everything, we don't need to know everything. We are shown enough. The light shines through in the end, illuminating the parts of the story that matter the most. Like a great jazz musician (I'm looking at you, Millson), Barber understands how to wield silence, the space between notes, to construct a hidden narrative which shimmers at the edges, just out of reach but beautiful nonetheless.

-Scapegoat, Amazon customer

Luck Favors The Prepared review: Elizabeth Chabe (The Indent)

In the first sentence of what turns into an uncommonly poignant and funny book, Nathaniel Barber dives headlong into a familiar topic: the interview for the job your don't want. We've all been there, sitting across from our future boss, being talked out of a position we never really wanted anyway. We all come to the same conclusion: 

My team would be cordial, for a day or two. But they'd eventually come to believe, as a district implant, I'd stolen their rightful path to middle management.

He passes on the job and gets a new one. Unfortunately for Barber, as he walks to work on his first day, a man in a window somewhere above pisses on him. This, we learn, is just his luck.

What follows are nearly 200 pages of stories about a life so unlucky yet familiar, that will make readers laugh and squirm uncomfortably. As with so much of contemporary American memoir, the attention is on the conflicts of young adulthood and how they affect us: bad decisions, bad teachers, bad jobs. His reflections on his impending divorce as he walks through an empty house are especially moving:

With no furniture, or carpets or pictures on the walls, or the constant mess on the floor, even the light "poc" of an easy footstep rang in whispers from the cold bare rooms and shuttered into woody closets. It was in these mockingly well-lit, caramel hallways and cozy alcoves where our marriage had, at long last, sputtered to a glottal stop. 

The provocatively upbeat title for this collection of short stories, Luck Favors the Prepared, had me fooled: his luck must change at some point, right? He can't get divorced, be tricked by his tenant, work crappy hours at crappy jobs, and have his estranged sibling die. At some point, he must be prepared...right? 

No such luck, I'm afraid. It really is too bad because throughout the novel, Barber grows on you. Perhaps it is the common timeline (he and I are roughly the same age), but I saw some recognizable memories reflected in the pages. I truly wanted everything to turn out ok for this guy -- a man who seems so like a friend we've all known. 

Barber writes with a flair that makes you wonder if he is actually David Sedaris writing under a pen name, pretending to be part of a younger generation just to taunt us. Like most of us, he looks back on his youth with obvious amusement and faint longing. Although he could benefit from more economy of language at times, Barber adeptly mixes unassuming language with a direct tone that leaves readers laughing and crying, often in the same story. 

Give this new novelist a shot -- he won't disappoint!

Elizabeth Chabe - The Indent

Luck Favors The Prepared review: Amazon customer

Like reminiscing with an old friend at a high school reunion, Luck Favors the Prepared gives the reader a look back at memorable events that have shaped the author’s life. It’s written in a way that made me feel nostalgic for growing up in the suburbs when high school kids were lucky to make $5 an hour and the biggest humiliation was wearing a marching band uniform. At times I laughed so hard I cried. I hope Nathaniel Barber keeps writing because I would love to read more by this author.

-Amazon customer

Luck Favors The Prepared review: Tammi Draper

Funny. Sad. Awkward. This book has it all. Each and every story left me wanting to know more about what happened. Sometimes I just wanted to punch the main character in the face. But then I saw so much of myself in the writing that I couldn’t stop reading. So I guess I really just want to punch myself in the face. Either way, I look forward to reading more work from Barber. If his non-fiction is this good, I surely hope he has plans to write something make-believe.

- Tammi Draper

Luck Favors The Prepared Review: Emily Williams

Luck Favors the Prepared was an enjoyable read. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I loved the down to earth feel of this non-fiction story. It flowed more like fiction with a realistic edge. The stories were very powerful and each left me wanting to find out more and whether they could have been joined to flow together. Barber has an easy style and flow to his writing and is certainly capable of giving a rounded story with depth and humour. I really felt for the author during the experiences for these stories, which did produce witty accounts but must have been harrowing at the time. A talented author, which can write about highs and lows with passion and that certainly has the scope for more. I look forward to hearing from this author again and will look out for his next novel.

Emily Williams

Luck Favors The Prepared review: Kristin Olson

I loved reading Luck Favors the Prepared. It moves quickly with humor, great metaphors and fantastic detail. It's the kind of writing that leaves you wanting more. Yes, more humor, more stories and also I wanted more. Each story left me with questions. I"m mostly curious what question is Barber trying to answer by diving into these stories? What ties them together for him? Sometimes I just wanted to know, what happened?...

- Kristin Olson

Luck Favors The Prepared review: Robin Falck

We all have life stories. You know, the *you'll never believe it, how did that happen, what was I thinking, but it's true* stories. We all tell them. Nate wrote his down. Anticipation is rewarded with laughter jumping out of unexpected corners or a heartfelt nod of understanding. What a brilliant reminder that life is messy, but worth every minute!

- Robin Falck