Published by Aqueous Books on April 30th, 2013
Genres: short stories
Source: Book Tour
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Sprung from the variously lush, rugged, and frozen emotional landscapes of the north country, this luminous collection of stories captures the progress of a diverse ensemble of souls as they struggle to uncover themselves and negotiate a meaningful communion, of any kind, with the world around them. A brilliant but troubled Bangladeshi physics student searches for balance, acceptance, and his own extraordinary destiny after his father disappears. When a Halloween blizzard immobilizes Minneapolis, a young woman is forced to confront the snow-bound nature of her own relationships and emotions. During an excursion to an idyllic swimming hole hidden in the Black Hills, two old friends unexpectedly compete for the affections of an irresistible, though married, Lakota woman. Like a mythical expedition to reach the horizon or the quest to distill truth from the beauty around us, the revelation confirmed by these imaginative stories - elegant, sometimes jarring, always wonderfully absurd - is that the very act of reaching is itself a form of touch.
I don’t often read books of short stories. Same thing with anthologies. Going into 2014 though, I wanted to try to widen my horizons and to read things I don’t read often. I am finding that a lot of the genres that were bringing me joy are starting to feel tired and repetitive. For the most part, this venture has been a success. I started it last year with darker contemporaries. Now I am trying short fiction. First up in that genre is The Sense of Touch.
This is an odd little collection because the stories are not what I expected at all. The endings are all very ambiguous and open ended. Rather than feeling like conclusions, to me this book felt like little snippets of life. I tend to like my books with a beginning, middle, and end. I know that this is all subjective, and someone else might very well feel that these stories have that, but I was left feeling kind of unsatisfied.
That doesn’t mean that I didn’t like them though. Because the fact of the matter is this: they are incredibly well-written. No, seriously. I would give my right arm to be able to write like this. Poetic sentences loaded with imagery that feel full of life and expression. Sometimes that is enough for some readers. This book takes on a very literary quality, and there were parts of it that I did very much enjoy. My favorite stories were “As Her Heart is Navigated” and “Big Blue.” The first is about a twenty-something girl who is in a relationship that she is not sure she really wants to be in. A blizzard hits on Halloween and she goes to dig out her car and then meets someone very special, but it’s not what you think. The latter is about a big blue wiffle bat, and a man who trips over his memories of his childhood and grandfather. I think I liked these two the best because I could relate to them a bit.
I’m not sure I would recommend this for everyone. Definitely for fans of literary fiction. Most of the stories are set in Minnesota and the atmosphere is palpable throughout the prose. I just wanted more from the stories themselves. I enjoyed them, but unfortunately not enough to rate this over three stars. It’s actually more of a 3.5 though.