Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Book Review: Come to Me, Stories by Amy Bloom

Come to Me
Stories by Amy Bloom
Harper Perennial
175 pages

You would think that I would have gotten my hands on an Amy Bloom book by now.  I mean, when I think of "great modern-day short story writers," her name is one of the first that comes to mind.

I've read a handful of Amy Bloom's stories before - in the various Best Of and O.Henry collections, one or two in A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You (one of the best book titles ever), as well as her work in O Magazine (I think it was O) - but never sat down with one of her books in its entirety. 

So I thought I would start at the beginning, with Come to Me.  Truth be told, this has been on my "want to read" list for quite some time.

Twelve stories comprise this collection, and several of them are connected to each other.  It's a brilliant way of showing the perspective of several characters within the same incident as well as at different times of their lives.  It's similar to the effect of Olive Kitteridge, only on a more abbreviated scale. Still, I think that these stories - particularly the related ones - would satisfy those who resist short stories because of not getting to know the characters well enough.

As good as these stories are, I really can't say too much about them ("Hyacinths," "The Sight of You," and "Silver Water" and then "Faultlines" and "Only You") for fear of giving too much away, but suffice it to say that they center on two families and are about how our earliest experiences shape us, as well as about what we don't know or don't want to see.

Relationships in all their complexity are at the heart of these stories. There's a daughter reflecting on her parents' unconventional marriage during her mother's funeral ("Love Is Not a Pie") and a husband and wife grieving the earlier than expected end of their May-December marriage ("Semper Fidelis").  There's misplaced affections for obstetricians ("Song of Solomon") and stepchildren ("Sleepwalking"), and inappropriateness under the guise of neighborliness ("Light Breaks Where No Light Shines").  There are families dealing with mental illness in their children and the knowledge that their spouses are in love with others. And of course, there is Amy Bloom's wonderful writing that keeps her readers wanting more.

The author's blurb on the back cover of Come to Me mentions that Amy Bloom divides her time between her psychotherapy practice and writing.  Since this collection was published in 1994, I'm not sure if that is still the case. 

As much as I'm not sure if I'd want to have Amy Bloom as my therapist (my life is fodder for more than a few novels), I'll say this:  after reading Come to Me, I can't wait until my next session of reading one of her books. 

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Iliana said...

Great review! I am not very much into short stories but I do like them more when there is some connection/link between them. It sort of feels more like a novel for me then.

Elizabeth said...

Oh, you must read her novel about 9/11. You must. I think it's called "Away."

Elizabeth said...

Ack! "Away" wasn't about 9/11 -- I'm thinking of a different author. "Away" is a beautiful book, though -- I just pulled it down to check and remember loving it.

JoAnn said...

I've been curious about Amy Bloom for some time. Will add this one to my list...I'm especially intrigued with the Olive Kitteridge effect!

Trish said...

Sounds good - I haven't read many short stories in a long time and am trying to include them in my reading more this year.