I was really impressed the first time I’ve learned that the author though only in his early twenties had produced something impressive without being pretentious. I just wonder how at his young age could he know so much soon which I really envied. Not to mention that right now I am at least at the same age with the author when the book was published in 1983, and I was currently pressing myself to write something unique and struggling to be published. To be published (especially here in my country) requires more than talent. Anyway, the short story collection consists of nine different short stories (which some of them I doubt being short) but tackles one theme; family. I guess it is also the reason why one of the stories is chosen to be as the title of the book to illustrate the collection’s common theme.
Every one of these stories consists of troubled middle-class parents and stepparents, friends and lovers, issues like gender identity, mid-life crisis, pains and losses. And although it contains gay characters -which one might think it involves obscenities – I think that because of them being gay makes every dialogue poetic and every insight touching.
In my opinion, there is nothing unlikeable in each of the stories not because I can relate with the author, but because the story itself is something to relate to and every character insight is profound and true. I also find it impressive the author’s ability to extract empathy from the reader and how he manages to get away with a complicated idea and triumphantly ends it without leaving question marks on reader’s heads just to make the reader think. The collection have something for everyone, not because it is about a family -which anyone can relate to- but because of it being carefully written and is fully realized.
Some of the stories here have appeared on various publications and one won an O. Henry Prize while the collection is a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. This is Mr. Leavitt’s first book which brings me to his others. Try this one.