Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese.
Hmmmm. I really don't know where to begin with this one, as I just can't seem to get my thoughts into any sensible order here. If this collection of short stories could be said to have a theme, it would have to be individual pain and struggle. Each story introduces us into the mind of a troubled character, a person battling their own personal demons in one way or another. And yet though there is this sort of thread of commonality running through the stories, they really form quite an eclectic mix. I'm sure it can be said of nearly any short story collection, that some stories will speak more to an individual reader than others. But for me, that seemed exceedingly true of this collection.
A couple of stories, "Down to a Sunless Sea" and "For a While, Here, In this Moment," did very little for me. They almost made me wonder if I was simply missing something. And honestly, that may be the case. Or it may be that I'm simply the wrong reader for those particular stories.
But then there were stories that I loved. When I read "Alabaster," I was truly grateful that I didn't give up on this collection. A little boy finally talks to an old woman who often sits on a bench along the street where he plays. The tattooed number on her wrist tells the reader what the child in his innocence doesn't understand. I also enjoyed "Little Errands," which if you've ever seen OCD in action, you'll understand the veracity of this story. And another I particularly enjoyed was "Billy's Mirrored Walls," in which we again see a child's innocence played against an adult's pain, though not nearly as intensely as in "Alabaster."
The other story that made a real impression on me was "I'll Make It, I Think." As the story begins we meet a boy with CP, and one can't help but ache for him and the difficulties he must face just living his life. But I have to say that by the end of the story, I was left deeply unsettled...I couldn't help but feel I was witnessing the making of a rapist or a serial killer. Maybe that was the intent. Or maybe I've just watched too many true crime dramas. Oh, and the kid from "Mortise and Tenon"...yeah, I'm a little worried about his future as well.
Please don't ask me to sum up my feelings of this book overall, because honestly, I just can't quite get a handle on it. But if you haven't read it yourself, I've got two suggestions: a.) read some of the reviews below, and/or b.) leave me a comment saying you'd like to try the book yourself. (If more than one person would like it, I'll do the random.org thing later this week.)
Trish at Trish's Reading Nook
Bookfool at Bookfoolery and Babble
Bellezza at Dolce Bellezza
Melody at Melody's Reading Corner
Steve at J.Kaye's Book Blog
If you've reviewed this, please feel free to leave a link in the comments and I'll add it here. Thanks.