Hearing a story as the author hears it in his own head is a rare treat. Saunders brings life to each of his characters on the page, but he talks the talk, too, with subtle and delicate differences among narrative voices as well as character dialogue-- both internal and in speech.
The breadth of characters in the very first story immediately engages the reader in the collections masterful acts of compassion and interpretation. This story makes room for dramatic differences in situation and inner landscape, uniting a naively optimistic young girl of beauty and privilege, an awkward and parentally- oppressed young guy, and a sometimes- self-aware would-be rapist, with voices raw and relatable and palpable dramatic tension. Saunders's characters manage to be understandable and condemnable by turns, and they flesh out real situations of humiliation and triumph that are deeply human and artfully rendered.
The first and last stories bookend the collection perfectly, framing the themes of intervention and self-actualization that define each of the stories individually and the collection at large.
Saunders is as good a reader as he is a writer. The quality of the stories as well as the performance make this listen a real treat.
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