seriously??? will mine be the first review of this on goodreads?? that is a lot of pressure.
here’s a funny confession: for some reason, i didn’t clock that this was a book of short stories, even though antonya nelson pretty much writes short stories exclusively, and when i got to the second piece in the collection, i was trying to wrap my head around “and who are these characters and how do they relate to the characters in the first chapter?”
also silly of me is that i thought i had read many of her books before, but it turns out i had only read one: Nothing Right, and begrudgingly at that. correction: begrudgingly at first, but then blown away. (also, how cute is it that i used to win books through the firstreads program??) but in my head, i had convinced myself that i had read, and loved, many of her books. all of this is to preface the confession that i liked this book a bunch, but i didn’t love it-love it as much as the other one i read.
i am a latecomer to the appreciation of the short story as medium. i am also moderately intoxicated. so go easy on me.
i have never read alice munro. as a self-professed lover of canadian lit, this is a huge confession, and a huge oversight in my reading background. but in my head, i equate the style/subject matter of alice munro with that of antonya nelson. which is meant to be deeply complimentary. nelson is nowhere near as well-known, but i feel that she should be. and even though this particular set of stories didn’t resonate with me the way my first experience with her did, that is not to say this isn’t still a great collection.
antonya nelson writes stories for grown-ups. which, again, is meant to be complimentary. she doesn’t waste time with stylistic fireworks or flashy quirks. she writes realistic, even sedate, stories with recognizable characters. they generally feature female protagonists, but the situations are universal and not specifically gendered: love, death, family, missed opportunities, settling…in this collection, there are a lot of may-december relationships and the familial baggage that accompanies such relationships in the form of children from previous marriages, resentful and exhausted parents, and the emotional responsibilities to those not of blood ties, but of this new iteration of the nuclear family. which is maybe why i didn’t feel as connected to his collection as i did to the last one i read—just a lack of relatability from my particular vantage point.
but there’s still a lot to celebrate here. my very favorite was the last story—more of a novella—in which a fractured family of three (surviving) siblings are faced with the situation of putting their father in a home while also having to contend with their own aimlessness and various personal failures. lots of meat in that story, and some deeply touching scenes.
so! we are going to call this a 3.5 and we are going to say that one or more of you should pick up an antonya nelson book and tell me what you think and we can try to make her as well-known as alice munro, who i will read. someday.