I had so much fun falling back in love with the short story genre that I had to keep the party going with this book. The author (what do I call him here? Dubus? Dubus III? Triple Threat? Diddy T? AD3?) was interviewed by Diane Rehm on NPR the other day, and their discussion piqued my interest. I haven’t read any of AD3’s other work (including The House of Sand and Fog), but after reading these stories, I may need to make it a priority.
The book is a series of four very loosely connected stories/novellas, all featuring characters who are struggling, in one way or another, with relationships. A man discovers his wife of many years is cheating, but the revelation serves to highlight his own culpability as well as hers. A frumpy, shy woman named Marla finds love, but also finds that it doesn’t solve her loneliness. A bartender with a wandering eye betrays his pregnant wife to disastrous results, and struggles to determine if he is worthy of trying to reclaim his life. And in the final, eponymous story, a teenage girl tries to reinvent herself after a very public humiliation on social media, aided by her elderly great-uncle, who understands her failures through the lens of the darkness of his own past.
If that all sounds a little heavy, well, parts of it are. However, I really encourage you to try it out, because it’s literature like this that makes reading worthwhile. It illuminates the universal, holding life and love up to the light until we can recognize ourselves in it. You may not have had these exact experiences, you may not have felt exactly this way before, but I promise, something deep will resonate.
You will enjoy this collection most if you approach it from this emotional angle, and not with an expectation of a tidy beginning, conflict, and resolution. All of the stories’ endings are ambiguous, without clear declarations about what ultimately happens to the characters or what choices they eventually make. That’s because this isn’t an Agatha Christie novel where the plot resolves and the mystery is explained thoroughly. These stories are much more like life: messy, unpredictable, and constantly subject to change.