Whether it’s the utter disdain a successful son feels for his nattering mother or the unavoidable anguish an elderly father experiences at not being able to reunite with his peripatetic son, missed connections often take center stage in award-winning novelist Guterson’s (Ed King, 2011) second short story collection. In 10 perceptive tales, he explores the monumental and circumstantial episodes that form the underpinnings of daily life.There are petty jealousies and niggling insecurities, long-held grievances and newly minted outrages. There are memories that blur when the past and present collide, conjuring up images of good times and bad for fathers and sons, husbands and wives, friends and strangers. Through them all, Guterson’s protagonists confront life’s challenges with something like aplomb, if not outright skill, and in doing so, often uncover unsuspected silver linings in otherwise darkly cloudy situations. While most stories are set primarily within the familiar landscape of Guterson’s native Northwest, several venture farther afield to Germany, Nepal, and South Africa to further highlight the universality of emotional connectivity. Guterson is celebrated for his deeply atmospheric novels, and his electrifying short fiction is equally expressive. --Carol Haggas
“Excellent . . . What’s striking about Guterson’s new collection is the consistent brilliance of the set-ups. Each of the ten stories fascinates in a different way, and the main problem is trying to resist devouring these crisply written morsels in one delirious binge.” —John Harding, Daily Mail
“Guterson’s second story collection displays simplicity even in its titles. Set mostly in the Pacific Northwest but also touching down in South Africa, Germany and Nepal, these 10 spare stories feature characters, mostly nameless and in midlife, trying to connect with family members, lovers and strangers . . . Throughout, intimacy is problematic: elusive, startling and awkward. More often than not, the author’s impulse toward the austere—both thematically and stylistically—proves effective.” —Carmela Ciuraru, The New York Times
“First-rate . . . The stories in Guterson’s second collection portray men and women who experience some sort of people problem. Whether it’s loneliness, anxiety, or depression, they suffer a paradoxical fear of and desire for human contact and intimacy . . . Some of the tales involve burdensome family members; others a new lover or the possibility of one; one has a racial theme. Painfully humorous, ironic, and satiric, each story is realistic, bordering on surrealistic; they’re well-written and well crafted . . . A collection worth reading for its portraits of and insights into personhood and its problems.” —Joseph Peschel, The Boston Globe
“Succinct, ambitious . . . People struggle to connect with each other in these 10 stories from the author of Snow Falling on Cedars.
Some return to Guterson’s customary Pacific Northwest, but elsewhere he ranges abroad, with settings including Kathmandu, Berlin and South Africa. Though Guterson’s characters differ in their ages, locations, and worries, all of their stories turn on the thin lines that separate friendship from acquaintance, and the strange from the familiar . . . Guterson reminds us of the boundless potential of everyday encounters.” —Publishers Weekly
“Deeply affecting . . . A strong sense of anonymity and isolation connects the characters in this collection . . . Missed signals, isolation, distancing oneself from social contact—all describe the emotional core of Guterson’s narratives. A haunting collection from a thoughtful storyteller.” —Donna Bettencourt, Library Journal