In his debut story collection, You Are Not a Stranger Here
, Adam Haslett drags into the light subjects often left in the cellar. Most of his stories are told from the viewpoint of the mentally ill (though one, "The Good Doctor," shows us madness from a caregiver's perspective). The rest of the stories deal with closeted homosexuality: boys who are just learning their identity, men who have never come to terms with it. Haslett is an enormously compassionate writer, and shows a lovely, plain-written acuity about his people. His writing is a convincing inside job--he never romanticizes or oversimplifies. In "The Volunteer," an old woman at a care facility is haunted by the voice of an ancestress named Hester: "For more than two decades, Elizabeth Maynard has done exactly as she is told and the voice of Hester, which has cost her so much, comes only quietly and intermittently. It is a negative sort of achievement, she thinks, to have spent a life warding something off."
Haslett has a gift for writing quietly about sensational topics: men cruising each other in the park at night; an abusive, self-hating relationship between two adolescent boys. The stories can get a bit too fancy: the writer can't resist the ironic twist or the surprise ending. Still, this is a beautifully written collection that's as heartfelt as it is intelligent. --Claire Dederer
--This text refers to the
From Publishers Weekly
In this affecting debut collection, Yale Law School student Haslett explores the complex phenomena of depression and mental illness, drawing a powerful connection between those who suffer and those who attempt to alleviate that suffering. In "The Good Doctor," Frank, a young M.D., goes out of his way to discover the origin of his patient's illness, only to learn of both her untreatable pain and his own fears and regrets: "The fact was he still felt like a sponge, absorbing the pain of the people he listened to." In "The Beginnings of Grief," suffering becomes a way of healing when a teenager coming to terms with both his homosexuality and his parents' sudden deaths seeks connection wherever he can find it, even in the pain inflicted by a classmate's violence. Often, Haslett convincingly interweaves the perspectives and lives of seemingly disparate individuals. In "The Volunteer," a teenager's awkward incomprehension in the face of his first sexual encounter bizarrely coincides with the breakdown of a schizophrenic woman he visits after school. Not all of the stories are charged with this kind of emotional complexity, however, and some tend toward the sentimental, as does "The Storyteller," in which the clinically depressed Paul, who feels himself to be nothing but a burden to his wife, Ellen, rediscovers his vitality in a chance encounter with an elderly woman and her dying son. Though the thematic similarity of many of the stories dulls their startling initial impact, this is a strikingly assured first effort.
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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.