Ninety-Nine Stories of God (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

If you've ever been punched in the face, you know that what they say is true: there are moments in a person's life that change everything. Before, you were one way. Then something happens, and afterwards you're different, forever. Reading Ninety-Nine Stories of God is a lot like being punched in the face, but because it's a collection of flash fiction and not a novel, it's a lot like being an amnesiac who gets punched in the face every three minutes, forgets, and has to relive the whole epiphanic, traumatic, sometimes earth-shattering experience over and over again. The impact with which Williams impregnates these stories - most of which are under two pages, some of which are under two sentences - is akin to an act of God itself. She expands small moments, diminishes big ones, and always reminds us that as often as Everything seems meaningless, there are an equal number of moments where Nothing can hide the most meaningful things of all. I caution you to avoid stories 15, 16, 23, 53, and 73 for fear of your soul imploding.


You will read this in one day and keep a copy of it on your shelf for the rest of your life. It is a pomegranate of a book: intricate, exotic, deep in flavor, and will stain your hands. Really, this could be shelved in poetry. I would read a story, stop, read it again, get goosebumps, and read it a third time. Somehow, Williams captures the very moment in time that each character reveals his or her mortal longing for something bigger, something moving or unsettling. What does it matter if GOD is really a German Shepard? If he is "wet," a "museum," a "jail," or "numbers"? A "woman" or a "hedgehog"? Is god what we need or what we see? Is god any thing?



A New York Times Notable Book and a Best Book of the Year at Esquire, Seattle Times, Minnesota Star TribuneHuffington Post, and Publishers Weekly.

From “quite possibly America’s best living writer of short stories” (NPR), Ninety-Nine Stories of God finds Joy Williams reeling between the sublime and the surreal, knocking down the barriers between the workaday and the divine.

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist Joy Williams has a one-of-a-kind gift for capturing both the absurdity and the darkness of everyday life. In Ninety-Nine Stories of God, she takes on one of mankind’s most confounding preoccupations: the Supreme Being.

This series of short, fictional vignettes explores our day-to-day interactions with an ever-elusive and arbitrary God. It’s the Book of Common Prayer as seen through a looking glass—a powerfully vivid collection of seemingly random life moments. The figures that haunt these stories range from Kafka (talking to a fish) to the Aztecs, Tolstoy to Abraham and Sarah, O. J. Simpson to a pack of wolves. Most of Williams’s characters, however, are like the rest of us: anonymous strivers and bumblers who brush up against God in the least expected places or go searching for Him when He’s standing right there. The Lord shows up at a hot-dog-eating contest, a demolition derby, a formal gala, and a drugstore, where he’s in line to get a shingles vaccination. At turns comic and yearning, lyric and aphoristic, Ninety-Nine Stories of God serves as a pure distillation of one of our great artists.

About the Author

Joy Williams is the author of five novels, including The Quick and the Dead and most recently Harrow, five collections of stories, including Ninety-Nine Stories of God, as well as Ill Nature, a book of essays that was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Among her many honors are the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, the Kirkus Prize for Fiction, the Paris Review’s Hadada Award, and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, to which she was elected in 2008. She lives in Arizona and Wyoming.

Praise For…

Wry and playful, except for when densely allusive and willfully obtuse, Ninety-Nine Stories of God is a treasure trove of bafflements and tiny masterpieces.

— The New York Times Book Review

[The stories in Ninety-Nine Stories of God] miniaturize the qualities found in Joy Williams’s celebrated short stories: concision, jumped connections, singular details, brutal humor. I say “celebrated” because Williams has been writing stories for forty years, and for forty years her literary peers—from Ann Beattie to Raymond Carver, from James Salter to Don DeLillo—have regarded her work with a kind of Masonic fellow-feeling. Yet she remains, in some ways, a difficult, and certainly an original, writer. She writes at a slight angle to the culture, literary and otherwise. Her fiction is easy to follow and hard to fathom; easy to enjoy and harder to absorb.

— James Wood - The New Yorker

[Q]uietly splendid. . . . I believe in art, and Ninety-Nine Stories of God feels like prayer to me.

— Boston Globe

Not many writers can launch a premise like “The Lord was in line at the pharmacy counter waiting to get His shingles shot” without falling into gimmickry, but Williams—long known as a master story writer—twists the scenario to an eerily moving effect. In manipulating our most deeply rooted expectations, shooting them through a prism of irony and wonder, she has created a cockeyed book of common prayer.

— San Francisco Chronicle

Baffling and illuminating, witty and disturbing, these 99 religious-flavored vignettes may not tell you why we are here or where we are going, but they do possess the power to entrance. The divine Joy Williams continues to work in mysterious ways.

— The Minnesota Star Tribune, Best Fiction of the Year

Sly and wonderful. . . . [Williams is] after some big truths in a few words, stories so short that some of them could fit on Twitter, except they're too smart and not mean enough. 

— The Seattle Times

A collection of fiction for our fractured times from a modern master — funny, profound and redemptive.

— The Seattle Times, Best Books of 2016

Williams says more in a page-long scene than most can say in a chapter; it's fitting, then, that her very short collection manages to encompass such an eternal theme with wit and grace.

— Huffington Post

[Williams] is ... a master of momentum; the stories in Ninety-Nine Stories of God end and snap, end and snap, their wit yanking you up and dressing you down right when you get a rhythm going.

— The Week

Read together, Joy Williams’ stories are a humanist manifesto, a celebration of our most mysterious values, desires and prejudices.

— Huffington Post, Best Fiction of 2016

Read together, Joy Williams’ stories are a humanist manifesto, a celebration of our most mysterious values, desires and prejudices.

— Huffington Post, Best Fiction of 2016

Williams addicts will mainline [Ninety-Nine Stories of God]; newcomers should chase the high with last year’s The Visiting Privilege.

— New York Magazine

While Marilynn Robinson (stately, assured) is so often held up as the major Christian believer in American letters, I would argue that, along with Annie Dillard, Joy Williams is the true seeker. Her stories are probes sent out into the universe.

— Oxford American

Masterly . . . Ms. Williams is her usual funny, irreverent self.
— The New York Times

Joy Williams is one of America's greatest living writers.


"Joy Williams is our contemporary O'Connor with a mix of Protestant sacraments . . . and a Zen Koan consciousness."

— The Los Angeles Review of Books

Every Joy Williams publication is a cause for celebration, and Ninety-Nine Stories of God shows Williams in her usual biting, insightful, and darkly humorous form.

— Electric Literature, Best Short Story Collections of 2016

Each story is beautifully strange and meditative in an unexpected but glorious way. . . . Inarguably inspired, Ninety-Nine Stories of God is a devotional for modern cynics and believers alike.

— Lenny Letter

Ninety-Nine Stories of God is gorgeously written, sentence-to-sentence, and arrives in vignettes that are condensed but not constrained, tight but not dry.

— The Millions

Weirdly soothing . . . The best approach is to read Ninety-Nine Stories of God all in one shot, and then dip in randomly thereafter, at your darkest and dimmest hour, finding solace.

— The Ringer

Each story in this collection shoots like a flare over the abyss of our existential dilemma, flashing the briefest light on the depths below and above.

— Eugene Weekly

Magnificent, imaginative, and moving. 

— Read It Forward

Much like the divine, Williams’ prose is simple and brutal, thoughtful and haunting. A spare but startling book.


Admirers of Williams—and anyone who treasures a story well told should be one—will find much to like here.


The most beguiling book of the summer is this little collection of 99 very short stories about God. The catch is that the brilliantly twisted Joy Williams is behind the stories, which means the Lord finds himself at a hotdog-eating contest or in line for a shingles vaccination. Mayhem, humor, and death mark this transcendent book.

— Publishers Weekly, Best Books of Summer

[T]hese stories are 100% Williams: funny, unsettling, and mysterious, to be puzzled over and enjoyed across multiple readings.
— Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

I would follow the trail of Joy Williams’s words—always beautiful, compelling, and so wise—anywhere they led.
— Chuck Palahniuk, author of CHOKE and FIGHT CLUB

These modern fables and skewed vignettes make the implausible plausible. Compression, as done by Joy Williams, extends the reach of her stories.

Each story, like living tissue, is a reliquary that makes something splendid of our most secret agonies and desires.
— Darcey Steinke, author of SISTER GOLDEN HAIR

These stories are as full of surprises as a Noah’s Ark filled with mystical beasts, three of each.
— Edmund White, author of A BOY'S OWN STORY

Joy Williams’s Ninety-Nine Stories of God reads like a blog-era bible as conceived by Borges, Barthelme, and Mark Twain. No writer alive captures the voices in the post-millennial psychic wilderness like Joy Williams.

— Jerry Stahl, author of PERMANENT MIDNIGHT

The word count of this slender, extraordinary collection belies the density and combustibility of its contents, their midnight hilarity and edgeless reach. Joy Williams is our feral philosopher.
— Karen Russell, author of VAMPIRES IN THE LEMON GROVE
Product Details
ISBN: 9781941040355
ISBN-10: 1941040357
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publication Date: July 12th, 2016
Pages: 220
Language: English