Thursday, March 10, 2016

12. The Safety of Objects

It's Sunday! Ok, not for the rest of the world, but for me it's my Sunday. I've spent most of it trying to finish up Story of O and going to the movies, and now I'm settled in, ready to write about another strong Project 84 book.

Book 12 came right off my father's shelf. He often sends me books he's read that he thinks I'll like, and I love that. The unfortunate part is that they often end up sitting on my bookshelf for months because I have so many others on tap for either the blog or just for fun. So, I have no idea when this book came into my possession - I think a few years ago - but I'm so glad it did.

Book 12 of Project 84 is...

The Safety of Objects
The Safety of Objects
By A.M. Homes
I've always been a big fan of short stories. Perhaps it's because it's the only format in which I've been able to have some writing success. Perhaps it's because it doesn't take long to read them. Perhaps it's because there's a unique talent in making someone care about your characters in 20 pages or less. But whatever it is, I'm a fan of short stories.

And The Safety of Objects is a stellar collection of short stories.

The book is short - 173 pages - and written by a graduate of my alma mater, New York University (Go Violets!). The collection consists of 10 stories that run the gamut in terms of subject matter. In one, a married couple uses a week their children are away as an excuse to go on a crack binge. In another, a mother deals with the aftermath of a horrible accident that left her son brain dead. In the final story, a young boy enters into a sexual relationship with his sister's Barbie doll.

The one that I found the most jarring was a story in which a young boy is kidnapped and, when he fails to live up to his kidnapper's expectations, is returned home. I found myself crying at that one. Anyone who knows me can tell you that disappointed kids are not my forte.

I think what I liked most about these stories was the candid authenticity of the characters. Like I mentioned earlier, the toughest part of a short story is managing to get the reader connected with the character in such a short amount of time. You don't get to write 50 pages of exposition introducing your protagonist, you have, at most, a sentence or two to make your reader care.

A.M. Homes is exceptional at quick character building. The story about the mother, for example, is just 9 pages long. But I feel for her. I care about her. I want to know more about her life. Some of the characters I pity. Some of them I downright loathe. But I care about them, and that's the most I can ask from a story.

In addition to the characters, I really responded to Homes's writing style. It's conversational, but descriptive and creative. She focuses more on painting a picture than on dialogue, and while sometimes I find that tedious, it just wasn't in this case. It was refreshing and delightful, and made the book a pleasure to get through.

So would I recommend this book? The answer is categorically yes. It's not a tough read by any stretch, but there is quite a bit going on behind the surface that makes it a worthwhile read. It can be disturbing in parts, and isn't for the weak of heart, but it's one of my favorite short story collections I've ever read. Thanks, Dad :)

The Thursday review is in the books! I really like this system of deadline reviewing, where I have to write something four days a week. Today would have been one of those times I would have put the review off til tomorrow (did I mention the amount of reading I have to do?!), but I'm really glad I didn't. Now, the review is done and shared with the world, and I can still focus on the reading to come.

Stay tuned for your Saturday review in just two days! Happy reading, everyone :)

Next Review: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (Posting Date: Saturday, March 12th)

**All page numbers and annotations refer to this version of The Safety of Objects, published by Perennial in 2001**

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