I Thought My Father Was God And Other True Tales from NPR's National Story Project

Edited and Introduced by Paul Auster




Trade Paperback

416 Pages



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When Paul Auster and NPR's Weekend All Things Considered introduced the National Story Project, the response was overwhelming. Not only was the monthly show a critical success, but the volume of submissions was astounding. Letters, emails, faxes poured in on a daily basis—more than 4,000 of them by the time the project celebrated its first birthday.

I Thought My Father Was God gathers 180 of these personal, true-life accounts in a single, powerful volume. They come from people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life. Half of the contributors are men; half are women. They live in cities, suburbs, and rural areas, and they come from forty-two different states. Most of the stories are short, vivid bits of narrative, combining the ordinary and the extraordinary, and most describe a single incident in the writer's life. Some are funny, like the story of how a Ku Klux Klan member's beloved dog rushed out into the street during the annual KKK parade and unmasked his owner as the whole town looked on. Some are mysterious, like the story of a woman who watched a white chicken walk purposefully down a street in Portland, Oregon, hop up some porch steps, knock on the door—and calmly enter the house. Many involve the closing of a loop, like the one about the woman who lost her mother's ashes in a burglary and recovered them five years later from the mortuary of a local church.

Hilarious blunders, wrenching coincidences, brushes with death, miraculous encounters, improbable ironies, premonitions, sorrows, pains, dreams—this singular collection encompasses an extraordinary range of settings, time periods, and subjects. A testament to the important role storytelling plays in all our lives, I Thought My Father Was God offers a rare glimpse into the American soul.


Praise for I Thought My Father Was God

"These stories have their own sly power. They remind us of what real life is . . . They are raw stories, and that's their strength as truth."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Human foibles and frailties, laughter and tears . . . We are all hearing—and telling—stories all the time, especially now, in these days when life itself seems so fragile and precious. But Paul Auster's wonderful efforts, choosing these fine stories, have given us a timely and invaluable reminder of what it means to listen—to really listen—to America talking."—The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

"Wherever you go on this handsome anthology, the tale is taut, quick and has a payoff, a punch line. I Thought My Father Was God is a huge national family history."—Neil Schmitz, Buffalo News

"Encompasses the comic and the tragic, the absurd and the surreal, the mundane and the ethereal."—Kirkus Reviews

"This is the stuff of life. You can take this message from I Thought My Father Was God . . . Everyone has a story. Also: The art of storytelling is alive and well . . . Of course, there's the obvious question: These stories may work on the radio, but do they translate to print? Yes indeed, and one could argue that they're even more potent read than heard. Reading these essays in private creates a sense of intimacy with 180 people, one at a time. This is a powerful book, one in which strangers share with you their darkest secrets, their happiest memories, their fears, their regrets. To read these essays is to look into hearts, to see life from other viewpoints, to live vicariously."—Steve Greenlee, The Boston Globe

"It is difficult to think of another book published this year, and probably any book to be published next year, that is so simple and so obvious, so excellent in intention and so elegant in its execution, and which displays such wisdom and such knowledge of human life in all its varieties. It is also difficult to think of a book that is so stark a reminder that human experience can be horrid and utterly unbelievable, and which therefore answers so precisely to our current needs and circumstances."—The Guardian (London)

"When novelist Auster was invited to become a regular contributor to National Public Radio, he hesitated because he didn't want to write 'stories on command.' 'Why not solicit stories from listeners?' his wife, Siri Hustvedt, suggested. And so Auster asked for succinctly written true stories, and within a year, he received more than 4,000 submissions. He's read them all, some on the air, and selected 180 of the best and most representative to create a unique and unexpectedly affecting book. Here are clearly written and simply told stories 'by people of all ages and from all walks of life' that Auster, his wonder and respect palpable, organized into 10 intriguing categories: animals, objects, families, slapstick, strangers, war, love, death, dreams, and meditations. These are stop-you-in-your-tracks stories about hair-raising coincidences, miracles, tragedies, redemption, and moments of pure hilarity. These impossible and indelible tales encompass reincarnated pets, lost and found items and loved ones, prophecies, and saved lives. There's something magical and electrifying about the realities these modest tales reveal, the hidden dimensions of human life, an amazing mosaic of mysterious occurrences and connections that are, apparently, as common as dust, as precious as love."—Donna Seaman, Booklist

"All are short, all are true, and they can be sad, hilarious, or both at the same time . . . As this collection ably proves, we all shape experience into stories, and Auster has done a storyteller's job himself of grouping the pieces effectively."—Library Journal (starred review)

"The one- to three-page stories gathered in this astonishing, addictive collection are absolute gems."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Like no other book I have read in years, this one restored my belief in Americans and the American experience."—Ploughshares

"Unforgettable testimonials of human resilience. Moving and amusing dispatches from across America."—Us Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



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Paul Auster is the author of ten novels, including Timbuktu, which was a national bestseller, and most recently The Book of Illusions. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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  • Edited and Introduced by Paul Auster

  • Paul Auster is the author of ten novels, including Timbuktu, which was a national bestseller, and most recently The Book of Illusions. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Paul Auster Lisbeth Salas Soto
    Paul Auster