A passionate December love affair.
The meeting of an unexpected traveler.
The consequences of protecting a young new acquaintance.
A journey into an unknown past.
In the stories of While I’m Still Myself, Jeremy Lane eloquently describes the life changing impact of the brief encounter, showing that life and love are not shaped by an entire lifetime, but by the fleeting moments with unexpected people in unexpected places.
And here's what I thought: I had been contacted by the author about reviewing his book, and I was curious --- and, I discovered some pretty good stories as a result.
I like short stories from time to time for a number of reasons. First, if I put down the book after I've finished a story, I don't have to worry about being lost when I pick up the book again because I'm beginning a fresh story. Second, if I'm not wild about a story, I have plenty of other ones (hopefully) in the collection to read, and one of those will probably strike me. That did not happen in this book.
What happened was this: I liked all of the stories. The author has a somewhat spare way of writing, but the way that he crafts his sentences, characters and stories, I never feel like something's missing. Does that make sense? How about this: reading these stories is like appreciating a beautiful chair designed by Frank LLoyd Wright (see photo at the bottom of this post) --- it's simple and elegant, and everything you need is right there, without any fuss. Maybe that analogy makes less sense.
Each story in this collection is relatively short, and each has a thin thread that connects it with the rest of the stories. I didn't think the connection was so strong that I felt I could predict any of the storylines, which was nice. Actually, it was very nice. At times, I had to go back and re-read part of a story just because I wasn't sure I was understanding what was happening, and as a result, I slowed down a bit when I read these stories, and took my time with them.
The characters found in these stories are pretty varied, and sometimes, quite unexpected. In the first story, the main character falls in love with a girl who seems just perfect ... until she reveals an awful secret. Or, in another story, just when you think things are going to turn out okay for the character, there is a snag. And, I'm okay with that --- I don't always need sweet and happy endings and, in fact, I like it when things don't always turn out wonderfully because then I wonder about the story, and the characters, and I wonder what happens to them. I found it interesting that there was a fragility to some of these characters, which made me invested in them right from the start. One of the stories, The Pebblestone Five, comes to my mind -- the characters seem strong and fragile, all at the same time, and there is a tension running through the story that kept me on edge.
I'm glad the author contacted me about reading his stories, and I'd encourage everyone to give them a try. They might not be the kind of thing you usually read, but I'd invite you to try at least one, to see if they resonate with you, too. This book is due out officially tomorrow, January 10th (please click on the GoodReads link at the top to learn more)
First lines from one of the stories: As a toddler, healthy and gorgeous with curly, blonde hair and cream-colored eyes, Annabel Shay would roam about the house, ignoring everything bought for her, and find a corner, a bag, a cranny of any kind and begin to rip everything from the location in order to see what the inner workings might tell her. This was a constant bother to her parents, Jack and Millie. Yet in between the warnings and the swats on the hand, Jack would marvel at her unending curiosity, it being more than he had ever seen, and he would wonder how this characteristic would manifest itself in the later life of his beautiful daughter. (p 18)
Please note: I read an electronic ARC of this book, so any page numbers or quotes may change upon final publication.
|Frank Lloyd Wright Robie chair|