Fiction/Short Stories, 2007
Turtle Point Press, softcover, 154 p.
The Secret Lives of People in Love is a first short story collection by award-winning writer Simon Van Booy. These stories, set in Kentucky, New York, Paris, Rome, and Greece, are a perfect synthesis of grace, intensity, atmosphere, and compassion. Love, loss, frailty, human contact, and isolation are Van Booy’s themes. In prose that is sweet-toned and measured, Van Booy writes about the difficult choices we make in order to retain our humanity and about the redemptive power of love in a violent world.I feel that I read this a bit too quickly, one story almost right after the other, during the recent read-a-thon. It would’ve been better, I think, to let each story sink in before going on to the next, but he writes so beautifully I couldn’t seem to stop myself from reading just one more, and before I knew it I’d read them all.
The broken chair would not have supported the full weight of a person, but by some miracle had remained intact, beautifully ancient, with one leg suspended an inch above the carpet, as though immersed in a never-ending dream of walking. (Apples)Like the blurb says, and the title implies, he’s done a wonderful job capturing the symptoms of love, and grief, and the effect other people, even strangers, can have on our lives. All the stories were touching but my favourites are Little Birds, the first story in the collection, and Snow Falls and Then Disappears. On the surface, these two stories seem quite different, the relationship between a boy and his guardian, and a man trying to get up the courage to leave his wife. But there is so much more to these stories and to me it seems as if they are about the stories we tell ourselves to cope with the loss of someone important in our lives.
I think living with the absence of someone we love is like living in front of a mountain from which a person – a speck in the distance, on some distant ridge – is perpetually waving. (Everything is a Beautiful Trick)This was a wonderful collection of stories that I will definitely revisit. And I see that he has a new book of short stories, Love Begins in Winter, coming out in May 2009, which I’m already looking forward to reading.
And if you haven't already, or even if you have, read this wonderful interview with Simon, conducted by the lovely Bookfool for Estella's Revenge.
My Rating: 4/5
(#44 for 2008, My Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge)
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