This Our Exile brings together short stories preoccupied with the eternal questions—incarnating them afresh through the singularities that mark our secular age. Here is a vibrant contribution to contemporary Catholic fiction that pinpoints those places in the heart that can come into existence only through suffering.
This Our Exile
Praise for This Our Exile
“Joshua Hren’s fiction draws upon a great tradition, including Flannery O’Connor’s grotesque, but his voice is distinctively his own—elliptical, contemporary, and ironic without cynicism. His characters see the world from within distinctive anxieties whose particulars would have been incomprehensible only a generation ago, but whose nature is nonetheless universal. Marriage is at the center of Hren’s imaginative world: his couples confront each other in an age of self-absorption, addiction, and distraction, within which Hren uncovers the mysteries of birth, death, and responsibility through inner commentary and witty conversation. In the incisive stories of This Our Exile, the profane contemporary world unexpectedly (and without fail) meets up with a religious consciousness in an intersection with some aspect of transcendent reality that it could not have anticipated from within its own horizon. This is deeply thoughtful new fiction, troubling and memorable, offering readers a fresh understanding of what faith and its contraries look like in our times.”
— GLENN ARBERY, President of Wyoming Catholic College, author of Why Literature Matters and Bearings and Distances
“I have been a fan of Joshua Hren’s fiction for a decade now, and this collection reflects everything I admire in his writing. With his sensibility for the resonances of words and his attention to the effect of setting and scene, Hren brings to bear in his fiction talents that would well serve a poet or film director. With their intense awareness of human frailty and human dignity, these multifaceted stories follow diverse characters, along paths of struggle and suffering, toward grace. They refuse to offer readers easy answers, but affirm our human hunger for true and beautiful things, insisting that these latter not only can, but must, be found—even in dark places.”
— KATY CARL, Editor-in-chief, Dappled Things magazine
“A young man who battles the memory of his father’s and grandfather’s factory jobs—their dedication to spouses, children, stability; a teenage girl rebelling against her divorced mother’s attempt to drive her into sexual relationships, who reads about crowns of thorns and flagellated saints; a man who recognizes his father by chance—the father who was a graduate student in philosophy and now cooks in a restaurant, the father whom he hasn’t seen for years—Joshua Hren crafts words and insights into strong stories such as these, about the lost and marginalized in our current culture, wherein old measures, authorities, rules have been cast aside, and most of us wander in befuddlement without guidance. But there are points—or rather, persons—of redemption, such as Michelle, who ‘inhabits the landscape between deadening-gravity and everything-is-a-game,’ and who can articulate what a full life is. These stories come alive and make one wonder, and feel, and think.”
— ARTHUR POWERS, author of A Hero for the People and The Book of Jotham, co-founder & vice president of the Catholic Writers Guild
“The stories in Joshua Hren’s This Our Exile depict characters in pressing situations, leading challenged lives; and yet, despite their wrestling, there remains mystery, wonder, and hope. Reading his stories, you will be transported into a world where richly complex people are rendered present by a writer who repeatedly demonstrates humility and compassion towards his characters. This evocative debut collection showcases Hren as a writer adept at exploring language’s possibilities.”
— NATHANIEL LEE HANSEN, Editor, The Windhover
About the Author
Joshua Hren teaches and writes at the intersection of political philosophy and literature, and of Christianity and culture. He serves as associate editor of Dappled Things and as editor in chief of Wiseblood Books. His scholarly work appears in such journals as LOGOS, his poems in such journals as First Things, and his short stories in a number of literary magazines. His first academic book, Middle-earth and the Return of the Common Good: J.R.R. Tolkien and Political Philosophy, will be published through Cascade Books.