Short story collections are always a little tricky. I've read some good collections with many great stories that took my breath away, but not without having to muddle through other stories that barely kept my attention. I thought turning to one of the masters of the short form might help (and perhaps it still will), but O'Connor's A Good Man Is Hard to Find was not the exception I was looking for.
O'Connor was assuredly a wonderful writer, particularly skilled at short stories. Her exploration of humanity has the capacity to punch the reader in the stomach. It's wonderful and done so well, but the reader does come to expect it—how trepid it make the reader to know the rug may be pulled from underneath them at any moment. These stories have great economy and breath, perhaps the perfect mix of the two. They're simple, yet multi-layered. In terms of craft, they are really wonderful stories. But the best of these stories—the ones I felt really made me sit up and pay attention—were the ones most often anthologized. The rest were good—very good—but felt more like imitations of “Good Country People” and “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” than stories that could stand on their own. It may only be the fault of comparison that makes these stories less amazing; nevertheless, they did not have the same effect on me. That and the fact that days later I can no longer remember what certain stories were about leave me a little disappointed.
I admit I was shocked by the rampant racism of the collection. I'm all for authors speaking in whatever voice they choose to use and do not judge the collection on this matter, but it left me uncomfortable. I felt dirty, angry knowing there were people out there like this? Was O'Connor herself such a bigot? Evidence seems to say she was, though most of this was probably just the cultural expectation of the time—not that that should ever be an excuse for an intelligent person. Still, I think it is only fair to warn those readers sensitive about such issues that this is probably an author they'll want to skip.