Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bewildered by Carla Panciera


I picked up this book because it was written by my high school English teacher! Even though it's been 25 years since I sat in her classroom (I can't believe it's been 25 years!?!) there's still a little bit of that funny sense of intrigue when thinking about a teacher outside the context of school.

Anyway, I enjoyed this collection. Sometimes, the passage of time seemed palpable. There's a sense of loneliness as characters take stock of their lives and realize they are not at all where they thought they would end up. There's a woman whose husband has early-onset Alzheimer's, a man single again after feeling compelled to leave his wife after an affair. Some characters are at a crossroads, while others have already passed one and wonder if they really took the best path after all. In many ways, these stories are more about the characters themselves than what happens to them.

Most of the stories feature relationships and families, and a reflective reader might find themselves wondering, "Why, or how, do people get into the relationships that they get into?" and thinking about how relationships evolve.

The material was not particularly heavy, but I oftentimes felt like the writing had a weight to it, a kind of deliberateness.

For me, "Singing Donkeys, Happy Families" and "It Can't Be This Way Everywhere" felt the most familiar, as I saw some of my own personal experiences reflected in those stories. Yet, the stories I liked best - that I would rate 5 stars individually - were "Fine Creatures of the Deep" and "On Being Lonely and Other Theories." They both had that "so this is how everything comes together" type quality that I like in storytelling.

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