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In January of 2016, I posted a version of this review here. At the time, I was inspired to compile a short story collection of my own. I had to put it aside and am just now getting back to it. So, I thought it would be a good idea to reread this book that inspired my own collection. I’m glad I did because I don’t remember many of these stories. Here’s my revised review. Happy reading!
The State We’re in
By Ann Beattie
What Audible Says
“We build worlds for ourselves wherever we go,” writes Ann Beattie. The State We’re In, her magnificent new collection of linked stories, is about how we live in the places we have chosen – or been chosen by. It’s about the stories we tell our families, our friends, and ourselves, the truths we may or may not see, how our affinities unite or repel us, and where we look for love.
Many of these stories are set in Maine, but The State We’re In is about more than geographical location and certainly is not a picture postcard of the coastal state. Some characters have arrived by accident; others are trying to get out. The collection opens, closes, and is interlaced with stories that focus on Jocelyn, a wryly disaffected teenager living with her aunt and uncle while attending summer school. As in life, the narratives of other characters interrupt Jocelyn’s, sometimes challenging, sometimes embellishing her view.
Riveting, witty, sly, idiosyncratic, and bold, these stories describe a state of mind, a manner of being – now. A Beattie story, says Margaret Atwood, is, “like a fresh bulletin from the front: we snatch it up, eager to know what’s happening out there on the edge of that shifting and dubious no-man’s-land known as interpersonal relations.” The State We’re In is a fearless exploration of contemporary life by a brilliant writer whose fiction startles as it illuminates.
As mentioned above, these tales aren’t so much about the state as about people. In one story, two writers meet for lunch and discuss Truman Capote. In another, a woman and her partner vacation in Nevada, and the woman has an epiphany.
Some stories have endings that are up in the air while others have more definite conclusions. Events in these stories can happen anywhere, not just in Maine. If you like realistic, slice-of-life short fiction, this collection is for you.
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Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.
Independently published with the help of DLD Books.
Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.
After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.
Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.
Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?