Good Trouble by Joseph O'Neill

Good Trouble

Joseph O'Neill

In these perfectly made, fiercely modern stories, Joseph O’Neill reminds us of the real, secretly political consequences of our internal monologues.

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A masterly collection of eleven stories about the way we live now from the best-selling author of Netherland.

From bourgeois facial-hair trends to parental sleep deprivation, Joseph O’Neill closely observes the mores of his characters, whose vacillations and second thoughts expose the mysterious pettiness, underlying violence, and, sometimes, surprising beauty of ordi­nary life in the early twenty-first century. A lonely wedding guest talks to a goose; two poets struggle over whether to participate in a “pardon Edward Snowden” verse petition; a cowardly husband lets his wife face a possible intruder in their home; a potential co-op renter in New York City can’t find anyone to give him a character reference.
On the surface, these men and women may be in only mild trouble, but in these perfectly made, fiercely modern stories O’Neill reminds us of the real, secretly political consequences of our internal monologues. No writer is more incisive about the strange world we live in now; the laugh-out-loud vulnerability of his people is also fodder for tears.

Advance Galley Reviews

I thought a couple of the stories were OK, but overall I could not really get into this collection. I found mosts of the stories pointless or boring.

Good Trouble is a collection of short stories that examine everyday life in the twenty-first century. I had a lot of mixed thoughts about this book. Some of the stories did more for me than others. Some I didn’t know what to make of. At the end of some, I thought, “Okay, so what?” Here’s the thing: people are endlessly fascinating. We all live in our own heads and are the hero in our own story. This collection felt to me more like a novelist preparing to write by creating little snippets of character insight. While the idea of exploring the thought patterns and inner monologues of these characters is an interesting one, I finished most of the stories feeling unfulfilled. With an unending variety of characters and personalities to choose from, the ones included here were hard for me to relate to. “God, how sensitive men were – on the subject of themselves.” Several of the stories included in Good Trouble were previously published in The New Yorker or Harper’s Magazine. If you’re interested in reading Good Trouble, I’d recommend checking out those articles first.

I like short stories, but didn’t enjoy these. Found it tepid, a bit dull and even dreary in parts. Felt like a series of jottings, some more worked out than others. Rather self indulgent in parts, the book as a whole I struggled to finish, and was relieved when I did. Like so many others, I thought “Netherland” exciting, innovative, bold and engrossing. This volume of short stories was none of those. Sorry.

I found these books to be overall very droll and pointless. I noted at the end of the book that these were originally published years ago. Not sure why they needed to be brought back again in book form. The author definitely has talent, but this format just was not appealing.

Disturbing but timely and important. Loved it.

I usually enjoy short stories but this was not my cup of tea.

Good Trouble is a slim volume of short stories that I enjoyed very much. If you don't enjoy character-driven stories, this may not be a good fit for you. The best word I can use to describe the stories is that they are very human. Conflict within the stories often comes from the personality of the characters and they are, as we all are, imperfect people. Often they are reacting to mundane situations within a lifetime and I find them very relatable. There is much to think about in under 200 pages. I appreciate that.

I couldn't really get in to these -- all of the stories seemed pointless or incomplete -- maybe that's like life. The best thing I can say about this book is that it is short, but maybe it isn't fair since I'm not typically into short stories. I did like some of the premises, like the "poetician" that the poet was being pressured to sign, or the son's erratic behavior towards his mom when working out whether or not to circumcise his newborn son.

This book is a staunch reminder of why I tend to avoid short stories. I just could not get into this book at all. As interesting as the plot summary sounds for this collection, that's about as good as it gets when it comes to this book. The last story in the collection, "The Sinking of the Houston", ends just as it gets mildly intriguing, which is more than I can say for the rest of the book. I suppose Joseph O'Neill was trying to explore the internal musings of everyday people, as well as how these dialogues that humans have within themselves translate into the outside world, but he fell flat at every turn. The stories themselves were extremely pedantic; I kept looking for the underlying message or lesson, only to be disappointed. Every single story in the book left me thinking, "So......that's it?" If there's one redeeming quality about this book, it is that it's a quick read and won't waste too much of your time.

Although I am a big fan of Netherland, I just could not get into Good Trouble. The characters feel petty and far too niche to be relatable. Worse than that, they're mildly irritating. After finishing the third story in this collection, I was ready to move on.

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of short stories. It was mu introduction to the work of Joseph O'Neill. I will definitely seek out more of his writing. The cowardly husband was my favorite story from the collection. I had no idea what a poltroon was prior to reading this.

A mixed review for me some of the stories engaged me some not so much.

Good Trouble strips away the personal narrative to demonstrate that we aren’t all the people we think we are. Sometimes we are cowards. Sometimes our stories don’t make sense or aren’t compelling. Sometimes we’re just drifting in a cooperative loneliness. The collection doesn’t pass judgment, it just illustrates and moves on. I learned some new words, too — ex., poltroon and tocsin. And the writing is delightfully clever. A real treat.

I tend to enjoy short stories and I was intrigued by the description of Good Trouble but did not end up enjoying this collection as much as I had hoped. There were a few stories that I wish were longer or that I kept thinking about after I had read them (which I take as a good thing) but then there were others that I found myself wanting to skim just to get to the point. While I can't say that the description of the book is wrong, the internal dialogues are often haughty and rambling. I had a hard time relating to the collection and wanted something more from it.

Penguin First to Read provided my advance reading copy, and I’m thankful that intriguing short stories continue to receive a slot in the literary options of 21st century publishing. That domain is the setting for a good chunk of Joseph O’Neill’s stories in Good Trouble, which invariably focus on everyday occurrences, particularly for writerly types, writ large, as so much of our lives are, in the small – that is to say, only in our minds. Most of O’Neill’s characters are stuck in their heads, which concomitantly leads them to be stuck in middling relationships or life stages. The mundane is made more unbearable, but with occasional hints of redemptive reflection. There is much to ponder. The author’s lexicon and eye for detail are worth noting, and the epiphanies gained by some protagonists are eye-opening for the reader as well. It is a collection of (mostly) previously published material that lolls in observations of ennui, insecurity, and the walls of frustrations that, in self-defeat, block expressions or communication and also interpersonal relationships. This condition can be a bit dense at times. A good part of my trouble with Good Trouble is that the titular idea – the kind of messy entanglement necessary for common good – is absent in many of the stories. For most of the 11 stories’ plots (each fairly brief), the protagonists avoid doing anything (or regret doing the minimum of something), which can be a bit agonizing to a reader without a little more conflict, resolution, or conflict resolution. At some point, the malaise of the everyday can border on a bit too much, even in fiction. Overall, I think this collection makes an interesting commentary of our times. Whether the tales would appeal beyond our contemporary preoccupations is uncertain, but uncertainty, at least in our daily lives, never seems to go far away. While my experience reading wasn’t great, I would say it was good, and, thanks to the short length and (sometimes) uncomfortably close targets, not too much trouble.

I am, in general, not a fan of short stories, but something made me take a chance on this collection, and I am glad that I did. Although I did not, of course, enjoy all of the stories equally, and some not at all, there were a few that really spoke to me. The author has a way of presenting everyday dilemmas or simple relationship challenges in a way that made me look at and think of them differently. Not my favorite book, but I'm glad I had a chance to read something that I ordinarily wouldn't have picked up in a bookstore or library. I received a copy of this ebook for free from in exchange for an honest review.

I'm not sure what the culprit is, but these series didn't catch my attention. I enjoyed the fact that it was short, I even enjoyed some part of some stories and how they end. But at the end it left me a bit frustrated: I wanted more and I was looking for modern depictions in a easier language. So don't take this the wrong way, if you are a fan of the style I bet you're going to appreciate the project better, but it's just not for me.

This book as a whole was not unbearable. Definitely not something I rushed to read. There were decent stories, and perhaps I would have been more interested in finishing this work if the author had led with a different piece. My opinions, of course, might be a product of my age. I think those born in the sixties or earlier might enjoy this book more.

Thanks First to Read for ARC of Joseph O’Neill’s “Good Trouble”. I am familiar with O’Neill from his novel “Netherland” which I really enjoyed. Like most short story collections , there are those that you will love and others not so much. All were very well written and I think most people will find more than a few that resonate with them. Most people have many preconceptions and often they reveal themselves not to be true. ‘The Poltroon Husband’ is a reflection on how a noise in the night and the handling of it between a couple can provide an obsessive notion and themes of their relationship. ‘The Death of Billy Joel ‘ is a very funny depiction of how a world of constant Breaking News can strongly influence us in thought and action. ‘The Sinking of the Houston’ ruminates on parenting , changing boundaries with kids and the protection parents hope to offer. The short stories that I mentioned were my favorites but they are all worth your time.

"The reader as a consumer. It's an interesting question." I received a copy of this ebook for free from in exchange for an honest review. There are some good stories in this collection but also a number that I wasn't wowed with. Like other story collections it's a variety of hit and miss stories that examine what it means to be human and the complexities of relationships. Most of the stories are pretty short and overall it's a pretty quick read.

As with all collections of stories, some of these were wonderful and others I had a harder time connecting to. I especially enjoyed The Death of Billy Joel, Goose, and The Sinking of the Houston. The hardest part for me with most of the other stories was relating to the characters. O’Neill does a fantastic job of creating realistic characters with believable issues, but as I have never faced many of these issues or been at point in life to consider some of the topics characters did, I wasn’t able to connect. Maybe in a longer story I would have been able to feel more for the characters. Overall, I feel like this is a strong collection of short stories that many adults in similar situations could enjoy. The writing style is phenomenal, and it was an enjoyable reading experience. Thank you to Penguin First to Read for providing me an eARC in return for my honest opinion.

I enjoyed these stories specifically for their mundanity. They are not about people doing outlandish things or getting involved in crazy situations. They are about the good trouble that arises within the average person's life. O'Neill is a great storyteller, who does a wonderful job of bringing his everyday-protagonists to life and making the reader invested in their small, relatable struggles. Some of my particular favorites were The Trusted Traveler, Ponchos, and Goose.


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