'The Office of Historical Corrections' Surpassed Short Story Expectations

Think you're not into short stories? Think again.

office of historical corrections reviews
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If you have any doubts about picking up a short story collection, allow Danielle Evans's The Office of Historical Corrections to convince you otherwise. Readers devoured Evans's latest book, which is composed of six mesmerizing short stories and a novella of the same title, focused on themes of race, grief, identity, and family.

As one #ReadWithMC reviewer put it, "I never thought to compare books to eating, but reading this collection of short stories with a novella to end [with] felt like that one time I experienced what it was like to dine at a Michelin restaurant. Each story progressively tantalizing the tastebuds." Overall, the novella was a favorite amongst readers, and reviewers praised Evans's sharp, clean writing throughout the book, calling her "a master of her craft."

Find out exactly what readers loved about—and what they wanted more of (!) from—Marie Claire's January book club pick, below.

"I must admit, as an adult I have not read many short stories. Short scripts? Yes. Short prose? No. But #DanielleEvans's #TheOfficeofHistoricalCorrections makes me want to read more shorts!  

The six stories that lead the book cover a range of people and places. A woman takes care of a boy stranded in a bus station (technically kidnapping, yes 😬), a college student has to deal with backlash after a photo of her in a confederate flag bikini photo goes viral, a man makes an apology museum for all the women he played, and so much more.  

The final novella is titled after the book, following a woman who works for a fictional agency that corrects historical inaccuracies in the public. The only problem is the corrections are purely factual and mostly do not provide context for situations. This is an issue for the main character's former colleague, as they both are led from D.C. to another town to somewhat solve a mystery that the agency only wanted historically corrected.  

The Office of Historical Corrections is a fun read that will take you all over the nation. I loved the idea of this agency because of the misinformation spread on the internet—and I loved how we got to see how this kind of agency couldn't fix things like white supremacy." —@janayagr

"I find people to have polarizing opinions on short stories, but I am firmly in the group that loves them. I’ve definitely read novels that I felt lagged, and would have enjoyed so much more if some of the excess was cut out and made a short story instead. I was so excited to see a short story collection as a December pick for @bookofthemonth, and although it took weeks to arrive, it was well worth the wait.

I really did enjoy this book. Each of the seven short stories had an interesting commentary on race, class, and privilege, albeit to different depths in each. There were a few stories I actually wish were longer, in particular 'Boys Go to Jupiter,' which is about a white college student whose life gets flipped on its head when a picture of her in a confederate flag bikini goes viral. The ending felt too open-ended to me, and I would have liked to know more of what happened. While I think this was intentional by the author, I prefer more definition in endings of stories...plus, I love all books with social media involved, so my greedy self wanted more!

Where this book really blew me away was in the titular story. 'The Office of Historical Corrections' follows a Black academic working for the Institute of Public History, a government group that corrects misconceptions and inaccuracies in the nation’s history. In the course of her work, she ends up unearthing the real story of the death of a Black man in Wisconsin during the 1930s. This is an incredibly poignant story with a mystery element that will shake you up. This was easily my favorite of the collection.

Overall, I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I wish that some of the stories had been longer with more defined endings, but The Office of Historical Corrections is a fantastic anthology that touches on so many important topics and will make you feel uncomfortable in the way that makes you learn." —@book.lover.laura

"A lot of little moments folded into big ones, or big moments folded into the day to day of life. That tends to be the point of short stories, in my opinion. They pull back the veil just a little and offer us a snapshot of a world, of a person. And that is what Evans did; but I often felt a sense of much ado about nothing while reading the majority of these stories, and I tend to like introspective writing. Still, they fell a little flat for me and the focus on the Black/white binary didn’t add much as it shifted in and out of focus without much purpose; except for the novella.

I enjoyed Evans writing, though. It is clean and crisp in a way that allowed me to make it through these stories and still feel somewhat a part of the brief world she built in them. The novella left me with a tired after taste, but it was the best offering in this collection. Even if it is a story that hangs wearily from your bones afterwards." —@poe.tics

"Reading one of @daniellevalore’s stories from The Office of Historical Corrections each night before bed is the only thing keeping me sane this week. It’s truly a pleasure to dive into her worlds with her characters. Every bit of this book is so rich and fulfilling." —@ckharyn

"My first favorite of the new year! I blew threw this one in two days and would definitely read it again. As my reading taste has broadened in the last couple years, I realize I really do enjoy short stories. These short stories didn’t necessarily have 'closure/endings,' but I was content yet sad with the way they wrapped up, if that makes any sense? They are a collection of very thought-provoking stories, that left me reflecting on a lot. Common themes throughout each are race and identity, but they are woven in differently in each one. Danielle Evans’s writing style is so good! I especially loved 'Boys Go to Jupiter' and 'Why Won’t Women Just Say What They Want' and of course the novella. If you haven’t read this book, I would recommend you do!" —@colbsbookshelf

"I never thought to compare books to eating, but reading this collection of short stories with a novella to end [with] felt like that one time I experienced what it was like to dine at a Michelin restaurant. Each story progressively tantalizing the tastebuds.

What I felt strumming from each story was the idea of history: personal and historic. The idea of what history does to us. In what ways it’s a ghost that haunts our present days and molds us. And with the title novella finishing this book off, it felt like the ultimate commentary on who gets to write history.

I loved this one with a fierce vengeance & I’m not fully sure I captured why in the words above. In thinking of my top favorite books of 2020, this one is at the very top of the list. If you’ve read this one, please let me know. I need someone to talk with it about.

P.S. @riverheadbooks asked a question in their stories inspired by this book & I want to ask it here: If you could correct/edit one piece of history, what would it be?" —@lupita.reads

"Through multiple short stories and a novella, this collection follows women who are forced to confront history, both their own and that of the world.

This collection was stunning! I’m usually not super into short story collections, but Evans is a master of her craft. This is such a careful exploration of what it means to know history (whatever that means!) and how we navigate a modern U.S. landscape. I loved how every story took an unexpected turn, really playing in tension and surprise. I’ve been continuously thinking about these stories, especially 'Why Won’t Women Just Say What They Want' and 'The Office of Historical Corrections.' This should definitely become a staple on everyone’s shelves!" —@purls_and_prose

"The Office of Historical Corrections is a collection of short stories and a novella, covering a wide range of topics; from race and prejudice to infidelity and family. A few of the stories pulled me in and held my attention: 'Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain' is a short story about an upcoming wedding where some of the guests had interconnecting lives. This was the 'soap opera' of the collection with the right amount of drama and even a runaway bride.

The story that pulled on my heart is 'Anything Could Disappear,' which features a young Black woman and a baby that was left in in her care. OK, so the baby was abandoned! She meets an interesting cast of characters who became her temporary family. Eventually she has to make a difficult decision concerning the well-being of her son. This story kept me engaged to the heartbreaking end.

'The Office of Historical Corrections' is a novella and the title of the book. The story centers around the lives of two Black women who have known each other most of their lives, but were never really close friends. Cassie is from a middle-class family where both parents are lawyers while Genevieve‘s dad was a wealthy business owner. Eventually they both ended up working as lawyers at the Institute for Public Policy. Their work was to protect historical records resulting in a challenge in America's racist past while investigating a story about a Black shopkeeper's death back in 1937. Cassie and Genevieve join forces with devastating consequences.

Individually, I think the stories were well written, but some seemed a bit formulaic and lacked a central theme. I gave this book three stars." —@islandgirlreads

"Reading one of @daniellevalore’s stories from The Office of Historical Corrections each night before bed is the only thing keeping me sane this week. It’s truly a pleasure to dive into her worlds with her characters. Every bit of this book is so rich and fulfilling." —@ckharyn

"This whole collection was just incredible.

There's so much to chew on—on the sentence level, each individual story, and themes that pop up throughout. Race, relationships, loss, culture, history, how we communicate and relate...there's just so much packed in here. Yet it comes across as effortless, nothing overwrought. I'm bowled over by how much Danielle Evans made me feel in just a few pages.

If you're like, 'Short stories? Nah, don't need those,' please reconsider. Definitely a collection you can burn through in one sitting, but I'd recommend savoring (and/or rereading)." —@christine_queenofbooks

"Danielle Evans is a master of the short story. We know this. I will say that this was a slower read for me until I got to the novella, which shares the title of the collection and closes the book. 'The Office of Historical Corrections' novella pulls you into a layered story that at its surface is about family, friendship, competition, and race, but unravels to ask the questions like, what we are willing to do to protect ourselves and illusion of our future? How can truthful history change who we understand ourselves to be?

One thing I appreciated about the short stories is that Evans never takes the obvious perspective. She experiments with point of view, giving the story we didn’t know was central. She considers the complexities of each character and while she builds them with empathy, is never afraid to show their full humanity." —@mixedreader

"No fancy gimmick for the photo—just a 'f*ck yeah this book is good' post.

💨 Propulsive
🤔 Thoughtful
✊🏾 Socially engaged
🖋 Stunning prose

The Office of Historical Corrections: Danielle Evans’s buzzy new book is a collection of six short stories and one novella. The Office of Historical Corrections bring unlikely heroes (and anti-heroes) together from across class, generation, and county lines to each offer an insightful look at the intersection of race and gender in everyday America: There’s the young girl who becomes both an accidental dealer and mother in one fateful trip. There’s the daughter who just wants to give her mother peace when no one will expunge her dark past. There’s the young girl who decides the first thing she’ll care about in this world is her ability to wear a confederate flag bikini wherever she wants. If these personalities seem like they’ll make for good reading—you’re in luck.

And then there’s the novella that shares its name with the book. Like Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery," this is a story that brings its reader on a journey into a darker and darker realm—first with trepidation, and then with a stunning conclusion. And while race is firmly at the center of this sinister journey to a small town, it doesn’t only spend its time tackling one of America’s earliest shameful problems. It also takes on one of its most recent— voluntary misinformation in the name of 'alternative facts.' It’s best not to give too much plot away here. If you weren’t angry, stunned, and ashamed before reading this one, get ready.

Like any short story collection, there’s bound to be a story or two that you connect with less. And, as a white gay man, I have to acknowledge that I will likely not be able to fully understand the depths that each story will reach with any one reader. But one thing is certain: The writing is sublime throughout—never overbearing but always guiding the reader to think more critically about even the most mundane actions the characters make. It’s just the most wonderful prose. These are stories that I will be thinking about for a long time. I can’t wait to re-read many of them." —@mattyandthebooks

Missed out on our January book club pick? In February, we're reading Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters. Read an excerpt from the book here.


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Rachel Epstein

Rachel Epstein is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York City. Most recently, she was the Managing Editor at Coveteur, where she oversaw the site’s day-to-day editorial operations. Previously, she was an editor at Marie Claire, where she wrote and edited culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also launched and managed the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game or finding a new coffee shop.