Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom

Summary: In Amy Bloom's brilliant new short story collection, lives are illuminated in the midst of darkness, of thwarted and unexpected love, of families made and found. These are people we know and are, people we long to be and fear we may become: a mother grieves for her beloved daughter and the handsome young man surgery will make her; a woman with breast cancer, a frightened husband, and a best friend all discover that their lifelong triangle is not what any of them imagined; a couple survives the death of their newborn to find themselves in mortal combat with the world.

Sensuous, heartbreaking, spare, and laugh-out-loud funny, these tales take us straight to the unpredictable heart of real life, with rare generosity and wit....And it is love, in each of these eight mesmerizing stories, that we follow through uncertainty and hope, through the betrayals and gifts of the body, and it is Bloom's flawless prose that leads us.

My review: This collection of short stories was far different from my usual book choice. I've been trying to branch out lately, and branch I did. In fact, I might be in a completely different tree. Despite the difference in storyline, I dove in and soon my head was filled with silence--nothing but flowing words on the page and my heart thudding, breaking, and mending along with the stories. Did I like it? You'd think so, but not particularly. I mean, the subject matter was definitely not to my liking. The characters did things that I simply wouldn't do (though as fictional characters, I'm obligated to forgive them). I read about the complexities of gender confusion, the brutality of cancer, the loss of a child, of a mother, infidelity, terminal illness, the neglected child, and the incompetent parenting. In short, these stories were not pleasant. In fact, they were nothing if not terrifyingly and excruciatingly painful. They were not about life as we want it to be (the fairytale existence that I'm so fond of), but of a harsh, gritty reality--of a life as it really, truly, unfortunately IS--and for that I cannot complain. Of the stories, the two I liked best were "Stars at Elbow and Foot" and "The Story" both concerning the deaths of young children and their mothers' differing attempts to regain life and happiness after such an catastrophic loss. The loss of a child is something that we all fear and I couldn't help but be struck by the anguish of these woman--the despair and anger that they felt. Despite some of the subject matter, I found the stories to be brutally honest, compelling and well-written. They got under your skin and put in you in a place you would rather not be, thinking thoughts that you would rather not think about a life you'd rather not live.

It's possible that someone else--someone less sheltered than me (in the life of the average Mormon) might find more meaning in these stories. I felt close to the characters, and shared their pain while reading the story but couldn't help but feel distanced from them in my everyday life. With the exception of my two "favorites" I didn't identify with them. Perhaps I need to live longer. Someone who had similar experiences to the people in these stories would, I think, understand them more fully and give this book a higher rating.

My rating: 3 stars. Well written, but I won't read it again. Definitely ADULT fiction. Some swearing and sexual situations, though brief and not really central to the story...which makes it all the more annoying...since it wasn't necessary. Not for my mom (if that helps).

If I could sum this book up in one phrase it would be: A painfully honest glimpse into the life of that person you see on the street, walking down the hall, or in your own home.


Maria said...

I haven't been to this blog for a while...I'm so terribly impressed with the amount of reading you do! You are definitely a more rounded person than I. You inspire me!!

MindySue said...

wow, thanks! just to be clear, i don't read ALL these books--heather, emily, and kim are big contributors, too!


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