Book Review: A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor

I love Flannery O’Connor! This short story collection was a birthday present from my brother and I was overjoyed to see this amongst my shipment of birthday books from him. The first book of hers that I read was Everything that Rises Must Converge, one her short story collections published posthumously. O’Connor was an extremely talented author from the mid-twentieth century American South who died tragically young from lupus after publishing one novel, Wise Blood, and the short story collection titled A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories. O’Conner’s wit is unmatched, she is very easily my favorite short story writer other than N. K. Jemisin. A Good Man is Hard to Find is full of haunting stories that left me unsettled after reading them. O’Connor’s fervent Catholicism is also very noticeable throughout the stories, they’re all full of overtones of original sin and man’s unworthy nature. I really like O’Connor but I do have some reservations in recommending her stories to other readers for a few reasons.

One of the biggest issues with reading O’Connor these days is her prolific use of the n-word. And when I say prolific, I mean it. O’Conner uses the word intentionally, conveying the terrible meaning of the word every time it is written. O’Connor uses the word to highlight the fragility of the social order in the post war South but that doesn’t make it comfortable to read. Her use of the word is so problematic that it’s even brought up in the introduction by Lauren Groff. I don’t think that the short stories would have the same undertones if the n-word wasn’t used but I still was really uncomfortable reading some of the stories. I think if you do decide to read this story collection, you have to be prepared to read it critically and I would NOT read it aloud. Just because the word was written in the fifties and the author didn’t view it as problematic then does not mean that it is not a very, very problematic word. The other issue a future reader may have is the unsettling threat of condemnation and sinfulness inherent in man found in every story. I really enjoy reading the stories because of that element; it makes me more contemplative of my own actions. However, just because I enjoy it, doesn’t mean that it’s for everyone. Either way, these stories were a quick read that could be digested over a nice lunch hour. I would recommend the stories to the intrepid reader but perhaps not for those who can’t watch a scary movie without sleeping with the light on. O’Conner is the master of Southern gothic after all! Happy reading!