I have had massive luck with the short story form lately. First, I read Chimamanda’s stellar collection, The Thing Around Your Neck, which gave me plenty of semi-happy stories. And I just finished reading the 2015 edition of the Best American Short Stories. The only thing I can say after finishing this collection is “Wow!” Of course, it’s not easy being published in the Best American. All of these stories come from some of the best literary magazines like, Granta, One Story, Tin House and The New Yorker. And it’s clear (to me at least) why these stories were able to be published in these magazines.
I will admit that I didn’t enjoy every single story in the collection. But there was something to admire in each of the 20 stories. There were stories with excellent characterizations (Unsafe at Any Speed), stories with great bits of dialogue (About My Aunt) and stories with unusual settings and plots (Kavitha and Mustafa). And of course, there were those stories that I didn’t enjoy as a reader, but which I absolutely loved as a writer (The Fugue and North). It’s safe to say that there is a story in here that everyone will love.
I’m finding it difficult to critique and review short story collections, especially literary short stories because I am still new to the category, so there is a lot that I’m learning about the ins and outs of literary short stories. But I know that putting a collection together can be tricky. You have to keep the momentum throughout the entire book, otherwise you can lose readers. That being said, I think this collection starts and ends with very strong stories. I loved The Siege at Whale Cay and Mr. Voice. Actually, Mr. Voice was one of my favorite stories in the collection. But I’ll touch on that in just a bit. I think the collection is well organized and it does keep up the momentum and energy from the first page to the very end. There were stories that dealt with similar issues and themes. There were several stories that had characters who felt bored at home and wanted a change. But these stories were spaced out, so there was never any danger of the characters from two different stories, blending together in my mind.
Out of the 20 stories, there were 2 stories that I absolutely loved: Mr. Voice and Kavitha and Mustafa. Honestly, after finishing these stories, I sat on my bed for several minutes in a stupor. I’m now realizing that these stories have similar situations; an adult taking care of a child who is not biologically related. In Mr. Voice, the story is told from the perspective of the child, while in Kavitha and Mustafa, the story is told from the perspective of the adult. I could gush over these stories all day, but I won’t. I will say that they are definitely worth reading and I think they’re important in today’s society. So many people have questions about family and identity and what it means to have a home. I think these two stories do any excellent job of trying to pick apart what we think makes up a family and what it means to care for someone who does not share your DNA.
This is definitely worth picking up and reading. It took me a while to get through the collection, but that’s because I was working insane hours last month, so I didn’t have a lot of time to read. (Or write on this blog!) Even if you’re not a fan of the short story form, I think you should at least try out a few of the stories.