This one looks right up my alley. From Goodreads:
“These interrelated stories are arranged in two sections, one devoted to virtues (Bravery, Loyalty, Chastity, Charity, and Forbearance) and the other to vices (Lust, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony, and Vanity). They are cast with characters who appear and reappear throughout the collection, their actions equally divided between the praiseworthy and the loathsome. They take place in settings as various as Tuscany, San Francisco, Ethiopia, and New York, but their central stage is the North Loop of Minneapolis, alongside the Mississippi River, which flows through most of the tales. Each story has at its center a request or a demand, but each one plays out differently: in a hit-and-run, an assault or murder, a rescue, a startling love affair, or, of all things, a gesture of kindness and charity. Altogether incomparably crafted, consistently surprising, remarkably beautiful stories.”
Interesting way of using a recurring theme or pattern, but to be honest, what I hope to get from this book when I get to it is just an engaging series of stories about how people approach various dilemmas in their lives. We’ll see!
Most of the first story was readable in the Amazon preview and what grabbed me with it was that it started with a scene where carefree teenagers roam the streets and then some of them hook up and get married and start a family, and of course there is more to it (like an enigmatic trip to Prague before the birth of the first child), but when it comes down to it.
I feel a particular resonance with the implied gap between how the characters see the relationships (“she married one of the sweet ones”, as it says in the text) when they are young and how that changes later on when they have some more life experiences under their belt.
It is something I intend to explore myself – a lot – writing about Carrie’s teenage years and also her middle-age, when she lives with her family in Yuma from about 2006 and onwards, especially her ongoing conflicts with her husband and eldest daughter, as she rapidly approaches that place of stuck-ness that some call middle-age. I have started writing about that in particular in the stories such as “His Last and First Breath” (taking place in 2018) and “One Step Closer” (2019).
Not to forget a little meta-perspective, also. It always interests me why authors embark on writing linked short stories, so here’s a clip from an interview where Charle Baxter has this interesting observation about why he likes the form:
“I’m interested in these sorts of books, the ones that reuse certain characters or that are located in a particular setting. We were just talking about Dubliners. Another book like that is Stuart Dybek’s The Coast of Chicago, which is really located in Chicago with a particular cast of characters. They don’t all come up repeatedly, but the narrator seems to be usually the same guy. I like these sorts of books, the combination of the continuity and the discontinuity. You know you’re not completely out in the middle of nowhere with each new story. You’re somewhere that the general territory has been mapped out.”
The “combination of continuity and discontinuity”. I am not exactly sure how to express it but I feel he is definitely on to something there which also drives my writing. I will reflect more on that in upcoming posts …