I didn’t really care for Away by Amy Bloom, but I did like her writing. I don’t remember exactly what I didn’t like about the story, just that it was a long hard lot of work for something I didn’t care for. But I wanted to try her book of short stories. I have been on hold for it since the summer (no, really) and it finally came in at the same time as approximately 17 other books I had put on hold at random times. This is bad, but at least short stories read quickly.
You know how I like to set my books on the counter and read them while I make dinner? I get asked about this a lot – do I get food on them? Yes, sometimes. I wipe it off. If it’s someone else’s book (or a library book), I am always particularly careful, though. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about how the first story of this book features, right off the bat, a sex scene between two people “with three children, two marriages, and a hundred and ten years between [them].” It’s not a long sex scene, for the record. But it was what I was reading when Mike came home and we started making dinner. I set the book on the counter as I was dicing the chicken, and I suddenly became COMPLETELY PARANOID that Mike was going to read the sex scene and think I was reading something trashy. So I started covering it up, which did, in fact, get his attention. He made fun of me for the rest of the night, asking how the sex book was going. So that worked out well for me. (There wasn’t very much sex after that, for the record.)
I don’t know why I just told you that incredibly embarrassing story. What I wanted to tell you was how much I liked this book more than Away. Maybe because it’s about love and family in ways that Away just wasn’t for me. It’s hard to talk about short stories, but here is a passage – a sentence, really – that I thought was beautiful, from a short story about a woman who works as a nurse with people who have special needs. She’s writing a letter to one of her former patients who had an amputated leg and has now run triathlons and been featured on the cover of People.
I have somehow not had the right things for this journey and I have packed and repacked a hundred times as if somehow the right thing will be found in some small pocket, put in by someone with more sense or gift than me, but I’m always scrambling for the last-minute thing and I am always, always watching the boat pull away without me.
Your family was one of my early boats and you were the bright and amazing sail, and I am, as I said at the beginning, very very proud of you.
Two of the sections are linked stories, and those were my favorites, although I enjoyed all of the book. I think short stories can be a tough sell, but I’d recommend this for anyone who thought Away sounded interesting. The combination of the topics plus the shorter length made this one better for me overall.