By Heidi Simmons
Alone With You
by Marisa Silver – Stories
It’s tough being an adult. There are so many choices and important decisions to make. Often the baggage of our past weighs us down and gets in the way of clear thinking. The short stories in Alone With You by Marisa Silver (Simon & Schuster, 167 pages) reveal that the things we think we want may not be what we most need.
There are eight stories in this collection and each has a complicated protagonist whose life is affected by someone close to them either in their past or present.
“Temporary” is about a young woman who moves to Los Angeles from Oklahoma, after the death of her mother. It is a different world and she does her best to fit in, but finds that no matter what she does, or the friends she makes, she will always be an outsider.
A woman’s small dog seems to commit suicide in the story “Leap.” After the dog recovers, she and her husband cannot find reasons to stay together any longer. Her heart broken once, now seems immune to emotional pain.
“The Visitor” finds a nurse assistant who works at a VA hospital preoccupied by imagining the inner lives of her patients and taunts them as they cope with debilitating physical and mental maladies.
In “Three Girls,” the past haunts the memories of a woman as she recalls how her family life may have contributed to her bad behaviors and self-destructive tendencies.
When a woman with mental disabilities gets pregnant, her parents are challenged to deal with the situation in “Pond.” The parents keep the baby and must tend to both their adult daughter and growing grandson. At times the extended family copes, but it is also far more challenging and all consuming than they had originally imagined.
“Night Train to Frankfurt” is about a daughter who decides to escort her mother to Germany for a treatment that may save her from cancer. With no other hope for a cure, it doesn’t matter the consequences, as much as surviving the journey.
Polish immigrants struggle to raise their son “In the New World” where the culture and lifestyle is hard to understand and their son difficult to relate to. The way the parents were raised in Poland cannot be translated into American life and a father fails to adapt.
The title story, “Alone With You,” is about the last ditch effort of a family being together for one last memorable vacation. As events unfold, the past and future converge and the trip is a success.
Typically, one or two stories stand out as favorites, but in this collection each story has a subtle impact that continued to resonate.
To the wonderful, regular readers of this column who reach out with favorite books and authors, you know I love short story collections and do my best to seek them out to share with you. I know there are those of you who don’t like the short story genre – preferring long reads with a standard plot sequence, which is fine.
But, Marisa Silver’s Alone With You is an extraordinary collection and exemplifies how powerful and brilliant short stories can be. She is both a skilled writer and a gifted storyteller. She is able to delve into the hearts and minds of men, women, and children to reveal our universal fears, weaknesses, desires, and dark secrets. And, she does it with efficiency, style and depth.
Our human condition is not unique. We are more alike than different. What affects us personally, impacts us for life.