Monday, April 21, 2014

Tell Me One Thing

Tell Me One Thing by Deena Goldstone
Knopf Doubleday: 4/22/2014
Hardcover, 272 pages
ISBN-13: 9780385538756

A collection of unforgettable short stories that explores the wondrous transformation between grief and hope, a journey often marked by moments of unexpected grace.
Set in California, Tell Me One Thing is an uplifting and poignant book about people finding their way toward happiness. In "Get Your Dead Man's Clothes," "Irish Twins," and "Aftermath," Jamie O'Connor finally reckons with his tumultuous childhood, which propels him to an unexpected awakening. In "Tell Me One Thing," Lucia's decision to leave her loveless marriage has unintended consequences for her young daughter. In "Sweet Peas," "What We Give," and "The Neighbor," the sudden death of librarian Trudy Dugan's beloved husband forces her out of isolation and prompts her to become more engaged with her community. And in "Wishing," Anna finds an unusual kind of love. Tell Me One Thing is about the life we can create despite the grief we carry and, sometimes, even because of the grief we have experienced.
My Thoughts:

Tell Me One Thing by Deena Goldstone is a very highly recommended collection of eight stories. I loved this collection.

Several of the short stories are interconnected through the characters in Tell Me One Thing. All eight of the stories focus on interpersonal relationships and how people struggle to connect with each other while overcoming their own issues and burdens. Goldstone show how people bear the burdens of their past and how that load becomes heavier over time, crushing them until they can find a way to deal with the burdensome past. Though the characters all face a loss of some kind and are grieving, they manage to transcend their pasts and pain to eventually find peace, contentment, and even love. 
Contents: Get Your Dead Man’s Clothes
Irish Twins
Tell Me One Thing
Sweet Peas
What We Give
The Neighbor

Jamie O'Connor is the main character in "Get Your Dead Man's Clothes," "Irish Twins," and "Aftermath." He is dealing with the death of his abusive father, his haunting past in his family, his mother's failure to even try to protect him. A year after the funeral his sister Ellen visits with a plan to force Jamie to confront his feelings but causes a catastrophic event of her own making. Then Jaime is left to continue to deal with his past as well as the damage Ellen has caused. 
The titular story concerns a woman who has left her husband and how that is affecting her daughter.
Librarian Trudy Dugan must teach herself how to continue living and connecting with the world after the death of her husband Brian in "Sweet Peas," "What We Give," and "The Neighbor."
Anna finds love in "Wishing."

The quality of the writing in Tell Me One Thing is exquisite. Goldstone manages to capture the complex psychological state of her characters as they struggle with their emotions and overcoming the visceral burdens of grief, hope, despair, and anger. Sometimes family, friends, and acquaintances have imposed the burden on a character but often it is of their own making or simply a result of living.

I can't recommend this collection enough.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday for review purposes.

Sitting in St. Timothy’s Cathedral during his father’s funeral Mass, Jamie has no idea how the rest of his brothers and sisters feel about their father’s death, but he knows what he is feeling—nothing. Of that he is sure. Over the forty-two years of his life he has cultivated nothingness when it comes to his father, assiduously. Location 51

When do you stop loving a parent? Jamie wonders. How much can a child take before that stubborn flame of necessary love sputters and dies? Location 119 an adult now, starting his forties, he’s come to realize that it is his mother who never, not once, stepped in to protect him against his father’s assaults. He’s certain now that Carrie O’Connor’s crime was the greater one. Location 319

So all eight of the O’Connor siblings have their own version of what life was like growing up in that narrow brick house in Buffalo, but no one has compared notes. Until now. Ellen has come halfway around the world for just that purpose. Location 325   

Aftermath Having spent most of his forty-three years intimately acquainted with the notion that the sins of the father are visited upon the son, Jamie O’Connor now contemplates the sins of the sister. Deep in the middle of the night, as he drives from his home to University Hospital, he tries to determine what his responsibility is to carry those. Location 906

They were an oddly matched pair, Trudy short and round, Brian resembling a whooping crane with all the angles and odd posturing that those birds employ. They never saw the mismatch. Trudy found in Brian an unusual grace, and Brian was always reassured that Trudy fit so easily into his embrace. They were the sort of couple that most people didn’t understand—the attraction, the connection, the longevity. She’s so caustic, it was often said, such a brusque sort of person. He was so quiet, that’s the first thing people noticed. Location 2230
Peggy Coopersmith, walking her chocolate Lab before work, found Brian sprawled across Madia Lane. Dead before the paramedics could get there and ascertain that his aorta had ruptured. Dead before Trudy could tell him she loved him one last time. Dead, alone. That last part—that he died without her there to comfort him—never stopped tormenting her. Location 2433 

On that March afternoon, as Armando helped Trudy plant her tomato seedling, kneeling by her side, he felt something shift within her, something tiny to be sure, but he heard a small sigh escape from her body, and with it, he was certain, came some measure of the sadness that seemed to weigh her down so. For all that he was grateful and very pleased with himself that he had thought to bring the tomatoes. Location 2464


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