Short Stories Are Perfect If You're Short On Time

A copy of “The Best American Short Stories”

I used to read every day. Now, with the onset of college assignments, work and family commitments, it’s harder to do so. When I read less, I find it’s also harder to pick up where I left off. I can no longer open a book and automatically remember everything that’s happened so far. 

I decided to read more short story compilations to remedy this. Now, I can read a story in one sitting and not worry about remembering previous events or details. 

One of my favorite short story compilations is “The Best American Short Stories: 2015.” This work was compiled by T.C. Boyle, the author of a popular psychological fiction novel, “The Harder They Come.” This compilation includes 20 stories ranging from 15-30 pages long. 

These stories explore various topics, such as romance, familial relationships or challenging life circumstances. 

My personal favorite is “The Siege at Whale Cay” by Megan Matthew Bergman. This story takes place in the 1940s and follows a young American, Georgie, during her time on a wealthy heiress’ private island. 

I like this story because it highlights how a good setting and concept can create a powerful story. Even though the story has no definitive climax, Georgie’s decision to disobey Joe, and stick to her morals despite backlash from condescending rich people on the island, has a lot of weight to it. 

I also love “Madame Lazarus” by Maile Maloy. This story covers how a small dog changes an elderly man’s perspective on life. 

I love this story because it dissects the relationship between people and their pets. The dog, Cordelia, forces the unnamed narrator to reflect on his life and his relationships and allows him to express himself emotionally. This story is sorrowful, though, and I cry whenever I read it. 

I would also recommend “Sh’khol” by Column McCann. This story follows a mother, Rebecca, as she faces the disappearance and mysterious return of her adopted son, Tomas. 

This story is a psychological mystery in many ways. Tomas’ early years before Rebecca adopted him are a mystery. From there, Tomas disappears after sneaking out. Rebecca deals with the fallout and struggles to determine if she will ever figure out the circumstances of his disappearance. I love this story because it is unique and well-written, but the ending leaves readers with more questions than answers. I wish that the author had constructed a more satisfying explanation. 

Some stories in this compilation are hard to follow; I dislike “Fingerprints” by Justin Bigos for this reason. This narrator addresses people ambiguously and by multiple titles, making it challenging to determine who they’re discussing. This format leaves readers struggling to invest in the story. Here, it seems the author is trying to be thoughtful and highlight his own intelligence but pays no attention to his audience or their comprehension. 

It is important to note that these stories mention several sensitive topics, such as animal death, the death of a loved one, sexual assault and abuse. I wouldn’t recommend this compilation to anyone triggered by these topics. 

However, if brief mentions of these topics do not bother you, then this compilation is a fantastic read. 

This book highlights different styles of writing and different types of stories in a fantastic way. I would recommend “The Best American Short Stories: 2015” to anyone interested in reading more, regardless of genre.

 

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