Rafael Has Pretty Eyes

From the Judges

“In this collection of deep, eclectic, and detailed stories, McCluskey has created a vivid and descriptive portrait of those people we might easily overlook. Maritime places come alive and jump off the pages and into your heart. The language is clear and precise. Some of the stories are darkly funny and you might just laugh out loud as McCluskey is very clever at writing parody and dry humour.”

Atlantic Book Awards

Advance Praise

This new collection of stories by Elaine McCluskey showcases her ferocious talent. No other writer in Canada is as funny, rigorously original, or as sharply observant about what makes people, particularly marginal people, tick. Rafael Has Pretty Eyes is essential reading for anyone who loves the short story form.

Susan Juby, Author of Mindful of Murder

These stories kill me! They are so good, so funny, so raw, so tender, so bittersweet, so devastating, so complicated and beautiful. I’m dead. Dead with writer envy.

Morgan Murray, Author of Dirty Birds

Elaine McCluskey’s characters leap to life, rendered in the kind of rich, vivid detail that makes you certain you’ve met them somewhere before. Rafael Has Pretty Eyes invites readers to revel in the stories of these artfully crafted characters and feel every flash of sudden wonder or quiet sorrow. Once you’ve been drawn into McCluskey’s ever-alluring world of words, you won’t want to leave.

Amy Spurway, Author of Crow


“I have loved Elaine McCluskey’s work for ten years now, as a search through my blog archives proves, ever since I first read her debut collection The Watermelon Social, and got hooked on this writer who, with a single sentence, can break my heart and make me laugh until I cry all at once. She writes about oddballs with such a remarkable immediacy….It also occurs to me that I love McCluskey’s work for the same reason I love Katherine Heiny’s, which might be the highest literary compliment I’m capable of giving.

Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This

Rafael Has Pretty Eyes brings two things I love together into one neat, well-executed package: Atlantic Canada, and strange, evocative literary fiction. If someone were to ask me for a book that would help them understand the urban Maritimer, I would pick this one.”

Alison Manley, Atlantic Books Today and The Miramichi Reader

“Rafael Has Pretty Eyes,” by Elaine McCluskey (Goose Lane) The 17 short stories in veteran writer McCluskey’s latest book (others include “The Most Heartless Town in Canada” and “Valery the Great”) are set in the Maritimes. The characters are wide-ranging — a former prize fighter, cops whose power goes to their head, a pink-haired hairstylist sitting crying on the curb — characters who struggle, working class people, people on the margins and who have fallen through the cracks. McCluskey has an eye for detail and a turn of phrase, and seems to delight in leading the reader through twists and turns to conclusions they didn’t see coming.”

Deborah Dundas, book editor at Toronto Star

Allison Lawlor, Halifax Chronicle Herald

“At the heart of McCluskey’s stories are “underdogs” and “people whom society decides have no business reaching for greatness, no business upsetting the natural order of things” (from “Remember”). In Rafael Has Pretty Eyes, McCluskey proves that she knows how to string it all together, and she reminds us stories can bring us back to life.”

Marcie McCauley