Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Sing To It by Amy Hempel

Source of book: Borrowed from the library.

One of those recent quiz things made its rounds in a book-related facebook group I am part of. A particular question asked who tended to blow up your “To Be Read” list. Well, that would be me. I keep undermining my own reading plans by bringing home random books from the library. Particularly ones from the New Books shelf. This was one of those. 

I hadn’t read any Amy Hempel before, although I was familiar with the name. Her short stories have been published in a variety of magazines and so forth. This is her latest collection, and consists of a couple of regular short stories, a bunch of vignette length stories (one or two pages), and a longer story that is not quite big enough to be a novella, but longer than the typical short story. 

That particular story, “Cloudland,” is a haunting tale of a woman who gave birth in an unwed mothers home, only to learn later that they didn’t adopt out all the babies: they allowed some to starve to death and secretly buried them in the apple orchard. 

Other stories which stood out were the opening one “The Orphan Lamb” which is a mere four paragraphs long, but gives a striking and disturbing picture of a bad sexual relationship, and “A Full-Service Shelter,” a story about working in an animal shelter. 

Most of the stories are more haunting than pleasant, about bad relationships, affairs, loneliness, grief. The characters are all damaged, but seeking to move forward anyway. 

Hempel is a good writer, and the stories have the virtue of seeming just a little too short rather than a little too long. The book itself is also less than 150 double-spaced pages, so it is a super quick read. It was a good contrast to some of the longer books I am working on right now, and of a totally different style. (Although some of the themes do correspond, so that’s an interesting link.) 

I didn’t really take notes on this one, just read it through in a few days, and enjoyed the writing. It’s worth a read, and I intend to seek out some of her older collections. 

No comments:

Post a Comment