Fifty years ago, Mary Hood was sitting in a classroom at Georgia Tech, where she was a graduate physics student, when she encountered the following test question: If it’s raining and a man needs to get to his car, will he get wetter if he runs or if he walks? “Everybody else had taken out their slide rules,” Hood recalls. “And all I could think was, ‘Well, what color is the car? Why is the man running?’ And then I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m in the wrong place.’”
Today Hood, 68, has won many of the great literary prizes, but she has never received the popular devotion that she deserves. Perhaps it’s partly because she lives quietly off the beaten path, in Commerce, and writes slowly, with sometimes a decade between books. At a reading in Decatur this spring, Pat Conroy called her one of the greatest American writers of his lifetime. “She’s not [just] the real thing,” Conroy said. “She is the realest thing.”
In A Clear View of the Southern Sky (Story River Books), her new collection of short stories, every sentence is so delicately polished, so deliberately paced, the result is a treasury of 10 small masterpieces. In the title story, we follow a woman on a chilling mission to assassinate a mass murderer. In eight other stories and a novella, “Seam Busters,” we meet a kindergarten teacher, a widow, a big-rig trucker, and more—all women who are working their way toward something better or away from something worse.
On the calendar: On August 1, pick up A Clear View the Southern Sky, the third collection of short stories from 2014 Georgia Writers Hall of Fame inductee Mary Hood.
This article originally appeared in our August 2015 issue.