Review: Sympathetic People, Donna Baier Stein

I received a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review and I am also hosting a stop on the blog tour to promote its release.  Sympathetic People is a collection of thirteen short stories, featuring men and women at pivotal moments in their lives.  Each story is different and set apart from the others, the characters are separated by class, occupation, geography … yet they are all trying to find meaning and reassurance.  Characters deal with marriage, illness and death while trying to form connections and find meaning.  I found it interesting to read such a traditional short story anthology, it is a medium of fiction that it is rare to come across these days.  There is no apparent link between the characters, although there was a sense of circularity between “Versions” and “The Second Time the Bird Escaped”, both of which link a married couple meeting with the husband’s former wife.

The over-riding theme of Sympathetic People was longing.  That sense of lingering dissatisfaction that prevented people from achieving contentment, the way in which life may not give you what you have hoped for.  Longing for a love lost, grief for a child, simple unhappiness with one’s own self.  I felt that Stein had evoked this vast gamut of emotions very powerfully.  Although there was a real melancholic quality to many of the stories, there was also a sense of hope too.  Meditation, that search for meaning, it has become cliché to try to ‘find oneself’ but Stein describes very convincingly that sense of feeling lost within yourself.

Short stories are often more openly ‘artistic’ in their form than other mediums of prose and Stein’s writing is lyrical and dreamlike.  This was a startling collection of stories, beautifully painting the quiet dramas of life and showing them in their true significance.  The small things in life, the casual encounters, they are the big things, the way that we reach out to each other, the connections that we build.  These are the moments of our life in all its mundane glory and in celebrating that, we celebrate our own courage in getting through the day.

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I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sympathetic People by Donna Baier Stein
Published by Serving House Books on 2013-12
Genres: Fiction, Short Stories (single author)
Pages: 148
ISBN: 9780985849580

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