Harper Collins: 10/20/15
advanced reading copy, 272 pages
Mendocino Fire by Elizabeth Tallent is a very highly recommended collection of ten short stories.
The stories capture relationships and lives during times of transformation with clarity and insight into the complicated emotional landscape of all relationships. Tallent explores relationships between genders, with an emphasis on female relationships, as well as broken marriages. Many of the stories deal with creative people, writers, artists, or ecological/environmental activists. Several are set on university campuses or have a tie in to academia. Almost all of the stories involve exes, severed relationships, struggling relationships. The emotions run high as we hear the inner thoughts of the characters struggling to make sense of their lives, actions, obsessions, and circumstances. Tallent describes lives that are messy, with emotional fallout and struggles.
All of these stories are extremely well written with exceptionally descriptive prose and phrasing. There are several passages I marked to take note of in my advanced reading copy. Tallent manages to capture the inner thoughts of her characters and their feelings with a clarity of emotion that is complete and realistic, but with a poetic grace and beauty of wording that often belies the raw emotions being expressed.
I don't know if the page numbers will be similar, but the acuity and mental pictures drawn from some of her descriptions is astonishing. For example: "Tamped down love means not only sublimated energy but also a ranting, pointless impatience: before long, she's sick of obsession's two-lane Nebraska highway." (pg 79)
Or: "It can't be true that she can't see in. That she can't know the story. This is her life she's been shut out of!"(pg. 97) And on the next page "Divorce is not linear. One morning there is peace of mind, the next there is wrath."
The Wrong Son - a young man in a working-class California fishing community has a complicated, combative relationship with his father
Tabriza - a man wonders if a valuable rug he dug out of the trash is evil and wreaking havoc on his third marriage
Mystery Caller - a woman places calls to her first husband but doesn't actually talk to him
Eros 101 - an female professor is obsessed/in love with her female student
Nobody You Know - recently divorced woman travels halfway across the country and meets her ex's new, young wife
The Wilderness - musings of an English professor
Never Come Back - parents have their son's pregnant girlfriend and subsequent grandchild continue to live with them after the girlfriend takes off
Mendocino Fire - a young eco-activist grows up in an unconventional manner
Narrator - a young female writer falls for an older famous male writer
Briar Switch - a woman's father is dying from lung cancer and she's has to drive through a blizzard to get to him
Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from Harper Collins and TLC for review purposes.
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