Hello and thank you for your patience! I’ve had a lot on my plate but am so excited to work with Fly on the Wall Press to bring you my thoughts on Ruth Brandt‘s debut collection of short stories, No One Has Any Intention of Building a Wall.
By the way–check out Brandt’s website here for all your writing-tutor needs. You can also check out my vlog review here.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–evaluating short story collections is tricky because they’re all so different. But something that I enjoyed about Bradt’s collection is its bredth.
In at least two stories, she takes history and gives it a delicious little twist. For example, we are privy to a conversation between famed mathematician Alan Turing as he mourns the loss of his friend (and crush?), and a school teacher who clearly has no patience for him. In another story, while the focus is on “Gabi” and her grandmother, we hear of Ida Siekmann, the first casualty of the Berlin Wall. I love these fictionalized accounts of history because they give insight into our past, and inspire its exploration.
Then, there are other short stories that seem to be strictly works of fiction–like one where a man is tortured by the (fake?) memory of hurting his foster sister and subsequently fears being a father. Another one I enjoyed was one in which a man struggles to reconcile his long-time affection for a sick partner and his newfound infatuation with his skiing instructor. Then there was the one about a woman who’s trying to disprove superstitions… The stories all, for the most part, seem so seemingly pedestrian, or even somewhat basic at first glance–they’re just about normal people, after all–and yet, there’s something deeply moving about this collection.
Somewhat similar to another short story collection I reviewed, The Afterlife Road, there’s this vaguely voyeuristic sense one might feel while reading. Since the stories are about everyday people and their lives, it’s very personal. Moreover, Brandt’s attention to detail seems to make it seem that much more intimate. We’re only with the characters for such short periods of time, a matter of a handful of (virtual) pages, and yet, as a reader, I felt as though I knew many of them, or that we had at least begun to move past the “acquaintance” stage.
I think Brandt’s details are, perhaps, my favorite aspect of her writing. Her pacing is good–the stories are short enough that they don’t drag on, but long enough to offer some sense of closure. It’s very clear that she put a lot of time and effort into developing each of the stories, expertly weighing description against dialogue, both of the internal and external variety.
If you like short stories, this is definitely a collection worth checking out, and if you’re getting back into reading, I’d still recommend it. If you’re not a fan of realistic fiction, this may not be exactly your cup of tea, but I think it’s still one worth giving a taste.
That’s all I’ve got for now! I’m going to actually bring you my thoughts on The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch soon, so keep your eyes peeled for that.