Why They Run the Way They Do by Susan Perabo
Only recently have I become a fan of short stories; I don't think I started reading them until after college, when a collection was recommended to me by a friend (by author Alice Munro) and I fell in love with the format. For an avid reader, I think I have a relatively short attention span; this certainly poses a problem when a novel doesn't "grab" me in the beginning, and I often choose novels based on my initial reaction to the description. Short stories might seem to be the optimal solution but, again, it often depends on the subject matter.
I was initially attracted to Why They Run the Way They Do for the title since, as you probably know, I love running; secondarily, I was attracted to the fact that it is a collection of short stories and that Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation, wrote a glowing recommendation. This turned out to be a great decision, in spite of the fact that it has nothing to do with running; this is my first five-star read of 2016.
As I type this, I feel inadequately skilled to "review" this collection; to say that I was moved by these stories would be a monumental understatement. A few days after finishing, I was still thinking about a couple of the stories and I'd really like to go back and reread the entire collection; instead, I've limited myself to about three of the stories. I had a short text message discussion with Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves (and you should check out her thoughts here) about a couple of these stories and I would love to be in a book club where I could discuss this with many other readers; it's just that good. At 208 pages, you have no excuse NOT to read this one; please, go read it, and then return and tell me what you think.
Rather than describe the stories or try to tell you about my reaction to each of them, I'll leave you with a few quotes so that you can see how you respond; if you're interested, at all, READ THESE! You will not be disappointed.
I had two little brothers, Nick and Sam. Their lives revolved around farting, Indian burns, and the timeworn torture of repeating everything you said, repeating everything you said. Someday I would enjoy the company of them both, my mother assured me, but until then I would need to exercise tolerance.
"Michael the Armadillo"
He hated her, so he wasn't going to leave her. And he loved her, so he wasn't going to leave her. She wanted him to do the dirty work, make it easy for her, open the door to her new life? Ha!
"This Is Not That Story"
It wasn't the anticipation of actually delivering the news that was suffocating the chaplain. He just wanted it to be over. He did not like knowing what they didn't know. He had a secret, and once the secret was told, nothing would ever be the same for the people to whom he was going to tell it.
"Life off My E"
Lizzie can't understand how a person can not be competitive. Once, after I lost twenty-three consecutive games of Othello in a single weekend and remained a good sport about it, Lizzie told me I should apply for disability on the basis of my sustained indifference.
What I loved about smoking, after my first day as a smoker, maybe even after my first puff, was that a cigarette was a thing to reach for every single time I wanted to reach for something. It was a permanent answer to the persistent question now what? Perched awkwardly on the couch, my afternoons structureless, my brain dully cluttered - now what to do? Oh, yes - now for a cigarette! An easy answer, a familiar routine, a predictable experience.