"This and seventeen other short stories are told in direct, no-nonsense prose and rely on each other, creating an overall personality for the characters in the collection: observant, not directly in the action, impacted but separate. This collection is best read in a few bursts, perhaps alongside a novel, but not all at once. Each character and story has a weight which makes this impossible in a pleasing way. Mostly Redneck is perfect for the reader who likes to lay aside and digest."
"While Barnes is an accomplished poet, the language is not flowery, but rich with metaphors. Along with the use of metaphors, the dialogue also rings true.While many of the story endings are unexpected, Mostly Redneck is not the land of happy endings. These are well-crafted, bleak tales of struggles with love, children, and aging, many of them ending in tragic hopelessness that will leave the reader feeling better about his or her own lot in life."
Prick of the Spindle
"The very best writers, I’ve believed for some time now, will work in that waysentence by sentence. And it can be a huge undertaking. Barnes is without question one of our best at this, and someone who makes it look effortless in the meantime."
"[These stories] shotgun bursts of prose that carry the reader rapidly along, wondering where each pellet might lodge at the end. And the endings are always surprising in some way, even when the surprise is that nothing at all has changed."
Small Press Review
In Mostly Redneck, Rusty Barnes expounds on his upbringing in disadvantaged rural northern Appalachia to deliver a mastery of country idiom and setting. In one minimalist story after another, he gives perspective and breadth to the widely misunderstood world of a people who still hunt for food, occasionally join their neighbors for church, and sometimes enjoy it when their city kin step in cow shit.
“It’s not unusual these days to find folks who can write a gleaming sentence, a beautiful paragraph, a shapely scene: a multitude of MFA programs have seen to that. Rusty Barnes gives us the lovely language, sure, but he uses it to burn a hole through the apparent world, and to show us the world within the world that is thus revealed. Rusty Barnes can really see, and he teaches us to see as well, gimlet-eyed and unafraid. What a gift!”
Pinckney Benedict, author of Miracle Boy & Other Stories
“These razor-sharp stories are gems that give us tough and tender characters who represent the best and worst of us, in prose so sharp and inventive that we’re shown a sky ‘the color of an old dog’s mouth’ and discover Saddam Hussein selling hot cashews near Faneuil Hall. Mostly Redneck is a lovely, raw collection about the wondrous nature of everyday life in all its beauty and ugliness.”
Silas House, author of Eli the Good
“Barnes’s narrative art is as masterful as his vision is profoundly honest and humane.”
DeWitt Henry, author of Sweet Dreams
“The stories of Rusty Barnes are short, sharp, and shocking in their humanity.”
Steve Almond, author of the Evil BB Chow & Other Stories
“Behind all of his characters there’s a quietly humane authorial presence interested in exploring our frail humanity in a way that reminds of the early work of Raymond Carver.”
Edward Falco, author of Burning Man
We Who Are About to Die