‘Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine’
Don’t just take my word for it: Author Ann Patchett called Kevin Wilson’s
“Baby, You’re Gonna be Mine” hands down her favorite book of the year on a
recent “Today” show. There is truly not a weak story in this collection of 10 from the author of “The Family Fang.” Most of the stories are set at least partly in Wilson’s home state of Tennessee (or nearby) and feature characters sympathetic, unsympathetic, surprising and real, even in sometimes slightly unreal circumstances. “Wildfire Johnny” uses a hint of magical realism to talk about contemporary issues of race and dating. “A Signal to the Faithful,” about a young altar boy who passes out during Mass, is probably my favorite. Wilson uses his structure and language to take this story in an unexpected direction, and by subverting your expectations, the words he doesn’t say tell the story as much as the words he does.
‘You Think It, I’ll Say It’
“You Think It, I’ll Say It” is the first story collection from
New York Times-bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld, writer of such novels as “American Wife” and “Eligible.” As in her novels, Sittenfeld is not afraid to depict women as vulnerable, scared, bad and just plain justifiers of bad thoughts and deeds. She also spins some yarns with real twists, such as in “Prairie Wife,” in which a woman’s jealous obsession with someone
from her past comes to fruition in a very modern way, or in the
sublime “The World has many Butterflies,” where the collection’s
title is explained during a story about an emotional affair.
‘How to Write an Autobiographical Novel’
In terms of emotions, I haven’t read anything in quite a while that stirred them like Alexander Chee’s “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel.” This memoir in short essay form is all you need to realize Chee’s writing prowess. Even the essays of Chee’s childhood and young adulthood feel immediate and sharp. Read the lightly gossipy tale of his years as a “cater-waiter” to New York’s upper crust. Or grab a tissue to read “After Peter,” set in 1980s San Francisco during the AIDS epidemic. The stories in these collections aren’t as heavy or depressing as their topics might lead you to think. Rather, they’re complicated and nuanced and a depiction of humans and their humanity. Which is why I, for one, love to read.