I'm reading a lot of short stories lately along with my non-fiction. Perhaps this is because it's so easy to find places to leave the book and come back later, or maybe the short story is making a comeback. I tend to think it's a bit of both, as I don't necessarily read for long stretches at a time and short stories are great for that sort of duck out, come back 20 minutes later kind of reading. But in the last few years, it seems as if there are a great many short story collections being published. Not just being published, but winning some major awards. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan comes to mind, as does Phil Clay's Deployment.
I requested this ARC because I am both in a short story mood and I liked the cover of this one-- Scrabble tiles! My review would be the same on this one, ARC or not. It's a damn fine collection.
In any case, Why They Run the Way They Do was a truly remarkable collection of stories. While they didn't have the thread running through them that would make it a "stories as novel" type of read, there were some excellent thematic similarities in the stories but they weren't so similar it all seemed like it was the same story with the same narrator. There was a mix of first person and third person narrative. There were male and female perspectives. There was a comfortable age range as well, with a story about 13 year olds, a story about high school seniors, one about about grad school age people, then at least one of someone who is 50ish or 60ish. It's a nice, diverse, mix, in other words.
There's nothing particularly odd or strange in any of the stories, just a honest portrayal of what life, death, and the spaces in between (and all the bad choices we can and do make) with a nice mastery of language.
I won't go into specifics on titles-- I loved "Life Off E," "Indulgence," and "This is Not That Story." If I'm honest, I loved pretty much all of them. I initially wanted to complain because there was a story about MFA students in the collection and I tend to feel like that's navel gazing to some degree, but when I consider the story, I think it's well done, it's an honest story that doesn't really have any pretension, I also think it captures some of the frustration of going through a program like that and then coming out into the world.
There was a story that when I read it (I won't give a name because I don't want to ruin the experience) that I almost felt cheated by the end, but when I slept on it and thought about it fresh, I get why it ended that way and feel it was really quite cleverly done. So, my complaints are pretty well on zero on this one!
I'd highly recommend this debut work by Susan Perabo. I think (and hope) we will hear more from her!