Reading Anna Gavalda's story collection, I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere
, is a bit like choosing the mini-éclair over its full-size counterpart--while the smaller size makes each morsel that much more satisfying, you can't help but wish for just one more bite. Still, in many cases, Gavalda does a better job of capturing the essence of human emotion in each five-to-ten page story than many writers manage to do in epic novels.
Gavalda sets up every story such that each character's fate can be decided in a single moment. Whether the protagonist's pivotal moment is decided by fate or free will is what keeps these 12 stories fresh and unique. In "Lead Story," traveling salesman Jean-Pierre does not learn the true horrific consequences of an almost-missed exit on the highway until opening Le Figaro the next morning. The veterinarian in Catgut decides her fate in the instant after a brutal crime leaves her feeling physically and emotionally victimized. And when the mysterious stranger answers his cell phone on a first date in Courting Rituals of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés, our heroine decides she has heard enough to cut short what could have been a passionate love affair. ("I come to my senses all at once. Traitor. Ingrate.") It is in these crucial instants, where fate plays a hand, that Gavalda truly shows off her ability to convey love, longing, loneliness, and satisfaction. And perhaps the clarity of these moments is worth more than any full-size French pastry. --Gisele Toueg
From Publishers Weekly
Unabashed materialism is tempered by dry wit in this collection of 12 jaunty short stories about heartache and love by a young prize-winning French writer. The first-person narrators speak directly to the reader: "So anyway, as I was saying," "I'm not saying that to be a smartass" and even "Hmpphh, whatever." This playfulness often masks hurt: protagonists range from a female veterinarian who is gang-raped by drunken farmers to a pop singer isolated by fame and drugs, to a traveling salesman who plays a role in a terrible traffic accident. The collection's shorter stories are slight; nothing much happens, or problems raised are shrugged off without any attempt at resolution. The book's gems, on the other hand, delight by adding action to the mix. In "Junior," two boys borrow dad's Jaguar, with disastrous results; in "Clic-Clac" two sisters help their brother jump-start a love affair with a delectable colleague. If love is one recurring theme, another is class, particularly the distinction between middle and upper classes in French society. In "This Man and This Woman," a couple's loveless marriage is equated with their predictable taste in clothing and furnishings: "It's all kind of nouveau riche, but fortunately they don't realize it." Deftly translated by Marker, this uneven but entertaining collection displays a deliciously Gallic insouciance.
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