Not a traditional short story, “Lunch with the Person Who Dumped You” runs us through the thought process of someone who’s just received a lunch invite from someone s/he used to know. There are five what-if scenarios presented in this short piece, and the anxiety runs deep throughout the piece.
But I appreciate the candidness of it all. The story reflects what we would all be thinking should the same thing happen to us. I don’t blame this person has gone overboard analyzing one message—I can relate. Not everyone is perfect, and some of us have our neurotic moments.
Someone who will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory is a fun collection to read. It’s written by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, the creator of Bojack Horseman, which explains the cloud of dark humor that envelopes the book. Another piece, “LIES WE TOLD EACH OTHER (a partial list),” is exactly what the title says, a list of things we have said that aren’t actually true. Not everything is in a short story format, but that makes the collection a more entertaining and refreshing read—if you’re a fan dark humor, that is.
Walter is depressed. His family knows this and makes great efforts to constantly keep him company. His family often (almost weekly) holds gatherings for the sole purpose of spending time with Walter. Here’s another thing: Walter is also lucky. Great things are accomplished whenever he’s around. What a guy.
For all of the effort of bringing everyone together for the sake of Walter, the family seems to care so much about Walter. Everyone seems to want to make sure that Walter is okay. Here’s another thought: they do not actually care about him.
Although the title of the story is “My Brother Walter,” it is not actually about not about Walter. It’s about the benefits Walter’s family members reap from his presence. The narrator has a false sense of sympathy towards his brother that masks the selfish motives the narrator and the rest of the family have.
“My Brother Walter” was a bit disturbing to read, but I found it thought-provoking. Similarly, the other stories I read in Mouthful of Birds also had the same eerie vibe. For a quick read, it had a long lasting aftertaste. So: this story was good read, but a reading full collection would be too unsettling for my liking.
Set in Brazil, “TGIF” is a story of a boy who, from a young age (or at least since he began smoking), has been toughened by the streets and by labor. Seeking to unwind after a long week’s work, the boy just cannot get a break from reality. He has to deal with a society with a large gap between the rich and the poor, the systemic corruption in the government, and the rage inside himself. Life is hard. To actually have a nice, enjoyable weekend to look forward to, seems to be a privilege as well.
The story is part of Geovani Martins’ short story collection, The Sun on My Head, which was recently published in English. While pretty much the whole story is in English, I appreciated the retention of some Portuguese words in the text. Although I had to look up the English definitions, I felt that this kept the story in character and showcased a part of Brazilian culture and values. Also, I felt like this contributed to the main character’s strong voice even if the text was translated from its original language. (That said, Julia Sanches did an amazing job translating this work.)
Pick up this collection The Sun on My Head if you are curious about favela life in Brazil. “TGIF” reminded me a bit of some stories in Bryan Washington’s Lot—class struggle is real. (Here’s the Short Bites entry for “Navigation.”) I also enjoyed reading “The Mystery of the Vila,” which tackled a different part of Brazilian culture and which I found to be heartwarming.
In Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine, Kevin Wilson’s “A Visit” is a homecoming kind of story in which a dutiful daughter rushes to her mother’s aid. You guessed it—the circumstances of their reunion aren’t so great, but what can you expect when there’s a sudden need for any child to come home?
I felt like the story gave me a sneak peek of what it would have been like to grow up in the US South. I like the strong community feeling—growing up having so-and-so’s kid around or knowing you can easily ask neighbors for a cup of sugar when you’ve run out. Also, there’s nothing like a good parent-child story to make you feel like the world isn’t so bad.
Helene Tursten’s An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good is jam-packed with surprise. The stories are all about Maud, who is sharper than anyone her age. I mean, you hear about sprightly old ladies, and you hear about Maud. She’s calculating and mischievous, and she will stand her ground more than anyone can.
“An Elderly Lady Has Accommodation Problems” holds no punches. In this story, Maud is the longest standing resident of the apartment building in which she lives. Oh, and she lives rent-free. It’s due to some legal settlement that happened way, way, back. Lucky lady. Well, Maud isn’t oblivious to her luck. She’s quite comfortable where she is, thank you very much. So if anyone or anything comes in and complicates her life, she will fix the problem. (I will leave it at that.)
I have zero plans of ever messing with Maud. The collection is short but not at all sweet.