“The passage connecting the wings of the hospital had long ago collapsed, so we signaled each other with candles, this brief joy at catching the blurred, lit shapes of other people’s faces over the rubble.”
This collection of stories is like sorrowful stones you will carry in your gut. It is beautiful and tragic and every rotten and fresh emotion lurking between. Different countries, after World War II, in a sanatorium high up in the mountains, at inns or train stations, each of the characters are stooped with grief. A woman working factories with nothing, with only coins and a tight small space to sleep, remembering the care she gave her dying father. Thankful for that small solitary space, when used to sharing cramped quarters with strangers. Too many hands on her, comfort in her father’s knife tight in her grip. Remembering the river she swam in, a lurking danger, a chemical plant, finding it again long after her youth. Violence, empty hands, wounds- these are not lives of privilege.
In Milner Field an immigrant father shares a sad, terrible story from his past that drives his son to try and find the missing friend from long ago. In Still A Fire, Mikel sifts through rubble that was once city blocks and wonders “What wouldn’t he do?” There is so much hunger in the tales, emotional and physical. The characters are all from many walks of life, similar in not just their suffering but their longing. I walked away thinking about how each of our lives are like solitary planets, some violent, some cold and empty, others bursting with life, filled with love. People wake each morning, some with everything arranged as it’s always been others with everything that anchored them obliterated. In this wide world of ours, so many lives a spinning fury, alien realities we will never know. How the heart breaks with all the suffering and yet how it clings to hope.
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
Simon & Schuster