Monday, July 18, 2011

What's New On the Bookshelf?

Short story collections are perfect for a B&B because guests can complete a whole story and then savor the nuances while falling asleep … I discovered This is Not Your City at the Hyannis Barnes & Noble, while waiting for Sven to have a tooth extracted. Caitlin Horrocks is probably not a familiar name, but it will become one. Her first collection of short stories reminds me of a meticulously loomed scarf, with bits of shiny thread woven through the mohair, and nubby wool sticking out here and there, soft and irresistible. This young writer has not only a knack for dialogue, but also the ability to create unforgettable characters. They remind me of folks you might stand behind at Cumberland Farms and not really notice. Caitlin zeroes in on the lives of these people with astounding precision and empathy. Lyssa, for instance, in Steal Small. In 16 pages the reader gets right into her head. Boyfriend Leo “bunches unwanted dogs” for sale to laboratories on weekends and shoots cows dead at the slaughterhouse during the week. Lyssa works at Goodwill. She isn’t wild about bunching dogs but realizes it helps pay the rent. And then there’s younger sister Mouse, whom Lyssa could not protect from years of what was surely sexual abuse by a neighbor. I read in the New York Times yesterday about an alarming new stimulant: bath salts. I could imagine Leo suggesting bath salts to Lyssa, and her going along with the idea. Sven tells me 40% of the youth in Spain find no jobs and must live at home. I don’t know what the percentage is here in the USA, but no doubt it’s high. After reading Steal Small, I was left thinking that at least Lyssa and Leo have a roof over their heads, even if dogs pay for it with their lives. Conclusion: these characters seemed so real that they remained with me, long after I had turned off the light. Do get this book and discover Caitlin Horrocks. Her short story collection is great.