The Dream Life of Astronauts


Long-listed for The Story Prize, 2017

Named one of the Best Books of 2016 by St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Named one of the 25 Best Short Story Collections of 2016 by Electric Literature

Named one of the Best Books of 2016 by Literary Hub

Named one of the Best Books of 2016 by Refinery 29


“[Ryan] displays a gift for excavating the dashed hopes and yearnings that lie beneath. He is especially adept at capturing the point of view of children, with a Salingeresque understanding of their alienation, their vulnerability, their keen powers of observation.”

Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Ryan is a master of that old-­fashioned, captivating storytelling that deceptively reads as effortless. “

Rebecca Makkai, The New York Times Book Review

“… a very funny and touching collection…In some profound way, every one of the characters in The Dream Life of Astronauts has failed to lift off in life. They’re dud rockets, fizzled-out fireworks, and, yet, Ryan — our author at the helm in mission control — doesn’t let us readers give up on them. Instead, he pushes every button here to make sure that we root for these screw-ups, stranded out on their launch pads under the Florida sun.”

NPR/Fresh Air

The Dream Life of Astronauts is a collection of small and lovely surprises — a book brimming with humor, compassion, and heartbreaks.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Ryan’s transparent prose and seemingly casual tone sneakily ensnare you in tough moments and wryly rueful deflations of the heart and spirit….an indisputable instant classic.”

The Seattle Times

“The satire here….comes closer to the films of Todd Solondz, revealing the twisted proclivities that lurk beneath a polite suburban veneer.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“There are Boy Scouts, Miss America wannabes, and a Nasa crew feeling rattled after the Challenger blows up. Ryan brings a wry sense of intimacy to these dreamers who are always searching for a better life, for something new.”


“A former astronaut plagued by his own inner demons becomes obsessed with a teen boy; a teen beauty queen must decide what to do about her unplanned pregnancy. There is humanity and heart in each one of these tales, all rendered with nuance and depth that will leave a mark on your thoughts long past the final pages.”


“Ryan conjures this rich variety of intriguing souls with consummate versatility.”

Nashville Scene

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate this funny collection of stories set around Cape Canaveral. Moon missions and shuttle launches take a backseat to the earthly predicaments faced by the eclectic cast of Boy Scouts, gangsters, grandmothers and beauty queens. While contemporary fiction often portrays Florida as a big, swampy freak show, Ryan treats these lovable space cadets with affection.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution 13 Southern Books List

“The sensation that, even as each of us is isolated, we’re all connected haunts these stories and makes the heart skip a beat before relief.”

Fiction Writers Review

“It’s wonderful to discover in Patrick Ryan’s latest book that he still has a keen sense for the oftentimes absurd/comic situations people stumble into in life while earnestly pursuing their goals.”

Lonesome Reader

“From the vantage point of the moon, even the explosions of our brief, earthbound lives would seem art, and this is indeed what Patrick Ryan manages in The Dream Life of Astronauts. This is a collection to return to for its honesty and humor, its plain, recognizable beauty.”

The Chattahoochee Review

“Whether he is writing of a teen-aged boy with a crush on an astronaut, a grandmother contemplating an affair with her driving instructor, a teen-aged girl wanting to become Miss America or a mobster living in a retirement community, Mr. Ryan renders these stories with compassion.”

 — QueerReader

“[Ryan] illuminates these characters with pitch-perfect dialogue and period references that capture the various decades in which the stories take place. In the end, he uses a symbol of mankind’s greatest achievement as an ironic yardstick for the more earthbound interactions of his sorrowful characters.”

Publishers Weekly

“Ryan highlights the quirks of ordinary life in a place known for the extraordinary in this sharp and funny collection.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Ryan is a gifted writer; these stories are artfully constructed, thought provoking, sometimes disturbing, yet often funny. Some of them will no doubt make readers squirm, but this is a fine, hard-hitting collection.”


from the publisher:

In nine unforgettable stories, all set in and around Cape Canaveral, Patrick Ryan showcases his masterly understanding of regret and hope, relationships and family, and the universal longing for love.

The Dream Life of Astronauts balances heartbreak with wry humor as its characters try to make sense of the paths they find themselves on. A would-be Miss America auditions for a shady local talent scout over vodka and Sunny D; a NASA engineer begins to wonder if the woman he’s having an affair with is slowly poisoning her husband; a Boy Scout troop leader, recovering from a stroke, tries to protect one of his scouts from being bullied by his own sons; an ex-mobster living in witness protection feuds with the busy-body head of his condo board; a grandmother, sentenced to Driver’s Ed after a traffic accident, surprises herself by falling for her instructor.

Set against landmark moments—the first moon launch, Watergate, the Challenger explosion—these private dramas unfurl in startling ways. The Dream Life of Astronauts ratifies the emergence of an indelible new talent in fiction.


“Patrick Ryan’s stories are comedies that can just as easily be read as tragedies. They are stories of isolated individuals bundled together into the families that define them. They are stories that moved me beyond words.”

 Ann Patchett


“I loved every single one of the stories in The Dream Life of Astronauts. Patrick Ryan is a very funny, smart and gifted writer.”

— Richard Russo


“This is a beautiful collection of short stories about people who have been pushed to the very furthest edges of themselves — which is, of course, where all the interesting things in a human life are. It’s impossible not to love these characters. It’s also impossible not to worry about them as you witness their grasping, hopeful (and sometimes deluded) efforts. You want them to be redeemed, you want them to find connection, you want them to restore their dignity, but — most of all — you want them to be at peace. Patrick Ryan manages to bring each character to a place of epiphany, but without once undermining or cheapening the authenticity of their struggle. This is a writer who knows well both the depths and the possibilities of the human heart.”

— Elizabeth Gilbert


“These stories are full of so many surprises and with so much yearning that it’s palpable. They’ll launch you right out of your comfort zone…Patrick Ryan has aimed for the stars and made it.”

  Ann Beattie


“Patrick Ryan’s beautiful collection, The Dream Life of Astronauts, is set in the actual shadow of the space program, on Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island in the 1970s and 80s, where people watch the rockets take off from their backyards. It’s a sensitive and heart-wrenching portrait of lives lived up against the glamour and tragedy of space travel, struggling with their own dreams of liftoff and escape.”

— Maile Meloy


“Patrick Ryan may well be the most agile short story writer of our day. The Dream Life of Astronauts proves his dashing dexterity, his canny wisdom, his honest-to-god heart. These stories are centrifugal, each one spinning out and in, from a fixed moment in history to the nearly infinite flukes of desire and destiny. No one captures longing, that dark side of imagination’s moon, like Patrick Ryan.”

— Claire Vaye Watkins

buy it  here