My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Very enjoyable. In these pages you will meet many troubled people, each struggling with the enormity of life's challenges. They will make you laugh, cry, but most of all, they will open themselves to let you use their lenses, so that the world you perceive grows in every direction a little more. There are parallels between some tales (for example, the elementary school and neighborhood in "Refund" & "Disappearing Boy" are the same) and Dan & Jack populate the first and last stories, but what is most striking is the wide range of trials that must be overcome. These people are facing enormous obstacles and are only human, but being human is both a weakness and a strength.
One curiosity about how these affected me: I cannot point to many of the stories and say it is hopeful or encouraging (the lovely amputee girl's humor is dwarfed by the scepter of death, the couples striving to stay couples are brave but face huge odds, and the man who pulls himself from the freezing water still seems crippled inside), but the fact that they never relinquish their fights (ok, the girl that goes bison riding is probably not fighting anymore) is at least positive. Right?
As for the writing, I am impressed. I like the dialog especially. Another strength is how familiar images (like the spray of gravel or two robes hanging together in a hotel room) buy the reader's credulity for more unlikely sights that are going to be sold. With respect to the characters, I found most of them fairly frightening in how their feelings are so raw and the relationships so flimsy, but - again - it's credible. We do not live in easy times.
Scariest image: being surrounded by people praying and touching you in a misguided attempt to faith heal. I'm going to have nightmares about that.
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