The Departure Lounge

Paul Eggers

The Ohio State University Prize in Short Fiction


May 2009
Fiction/Short Stories
166 pp. 6x9

$29.95 paper 978-0-8142-5195-9
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Table of Contents


“Paul Eggers is one of the most sure-handed writers around. Most impressive, in this stunning new collection, is the depth of characterization. Again and again, his characters react in surprising yet thoroughly convincing ways. These stories will remain with me a long, long time.” —Steve Yarbrough, author of Prisoners of War (2004), Visible Spirits (2001), and The Oxygen Man (1999)

The Departure Lounge is a long exhale from an author who has been to the darkest places the world has to offer, and spent many years reflecting on what he saw there. These are sad stories, not without hope or laughter, but stories from that reckoning time of life when the awful things that happened ‘over there’ are finally understood to be events that did not just happen in those other, tropical, foreign places, but are happening now and now and now in our hearts, and in our memory. And what’s most moving about these stories is Eggers’ knowledge that the refugee camp, the war front, the city under siege, the soldier’s baton on the back of a friend, will always continue to happen no matter how far away in our lives we have returned from them, no matter how often we tell ourselves, ‘That was another life.’ The Departure Lounge is a beautiful book, as difficult personally for me to read as it was to put down.” —Tony D’Souza, author of Whiteman (2007) and The Konkans (2008)

“Paul Eggers continues to be one of the most interesting voices in American fiction writing about the collision of cultures and the search for identity that lie deep at the center of the crucial twenty-first-century issues of immigration and diversity. And he writes with great perception and nuance and an abiding compassion, finding our shared humanity, which animates all great fiction. The Departure Lounge is a splendid collection, and Eggers is a writer who needs to be widely heard.” —Robert Olen Butler, author of Pulitzer Prize–winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

What happens when people land on unfamiliar moral and cultural turf? The five stories in Paul Eggers’ The Departure Lounge examine that question, focusing on characters in either voluntary or involuntary exile—men and women forced to confront their deepest emotions and beliefs, removed from familiar, comforting surroundings.

In one story an academic flees his family, arriving in Africa only to find that his African host is dealing with a similar crisis. In another, an American chess hustler in Africa is forced to come to terms with his own sense of right and wrong. In yet another, an old Vietnamese man now living in California finds that his relationship with his now-dead daughter was not what he had assumed. In the story “Hey,” a young chess star confronts the death of his brother in the Vietnam War. And in the final story, an aging American couple—former UN relief workers—return to their refugee-camp worksite in Malaysia, discovering what they had forgotten about themselves.

In lyrical, tough-minded prose, Eggers’ stories illuminate in unexpected ways the profundity of cross-cultural experiences, as well as deliver fresh insights into the complexity of identity.

Paul Eggers is associate professor of English at California State University, Chico.