Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Secret Lives of People in Love

By Simon Van Booy
Published: Harper Perennial edition, 2010
Pages: 174

Simon Van Booy brings us his first collection of short stories.  He has an interestingly beautiful description on what love looks like.  Love isn't just romantic, it can be heartbreaking, heartwarming, just beginning or old-time.  It can be so many things and sometimes the most impact can come from the messed up father son relationship. 

The reader experiences love in several different situation in different cities across the world.  He tells stories from New York to France, on subways and in small apartments.  
The characters in the stories were developed just well enough.  It is like a snapshot into a character's life.  I am not going to know everything about a person by meeting them for five minutes.  Simon Van Booy lets the reader know just enough to give the reader the feeling that they are actually meeting the characters.  This allows us to judge and to sympathize without knowing everything.  For example, one of the stories is presumably about a man leaving his wife on their anniversary.  Naturally, I judge.  How cruel can this man be, but was I getting the whole picture?  Did I know exactly what was going on in both people's lives? No.

In particular, I really liked the first short story.  Narrated by a teen-aged boy of 15, it shows the insight of nontraditional love.  The man he lives with is the closest thing he has to a father, he does not remember his own parents.  But the story this man tells him, leaves room for questioning whether or not it is the truth.  Despite the question, it is evident that the man loves the boy, even though it is unconventional.

Simon Van Booy's strength as a writer is his ability to paint pictures with words.  There are many scenes in each story that vividly stick with me after I finished reading.  I can see the park bench in which the little boy goes to meet the memory of his mother in Central Park.  I can smell the first sights of spring as he encounters a strange man at his bench.  I can also see the warm smile spread across his face when the little boy tells him he needs to move.  

Some of the stories were not as compelling as the others, which tends to happen in a collection of short stories.  Even though I did not enjoy every story, there were enough that made me want to read more.

Stars: 3/5

"Simon Van Booy's stories have the power and resonance of poems.  They stay with you like significant memory." 
        - Roger Rosenblatt

"His sentences are spare, subtle, and freighted, his images fresh... YOu see and feel his settings." 
       - New York Newsday

No comments:

Post a Comment