I finished reading Farewell Navigator by Leni Zumas last week and it’s taken me a while to figure out how to talk about this book. With writing that brings to mind the style of magical realism, this collection of ten short stories features characters who are the misfits and the disenfranchised in society.
The characters are often sad and their situations are filled with despair yet even with the odds stacked against them, they are finding hope and are hanging on for survival.
For example take the story of “The Everything Hater.” The main character’s brother, Horace, feels misunderstood and hates everyone and his family is careful around him.
“My brother has enrolled in a writing class at the community center and says the other students make him want to kill himself and one day soon, he warns us, he probably will. Our mother laughs, but tells me to keep an eye peeled.”
At first, after every pronouncement made by Horace you can’t help but think this guy is just a jerk but as the story unfolds there is a greater sense of acceptance and understanding of why Horace is this way. I think you’ll even root for him in the end.
The author explores bizarre situations and makes the surreal feel real. Here’s a snippet from my other favorite story in the collection, “Blotilla Takes the Cake,” in which the main character, who is receiving treatment for an eating disorder, takes a stand against a bully.
“At the end of the counter are little baskets of salt, pepper, and Sweet ‘N Low. Linda watches to make sure we don’t take more than one packet of each. Sweet ‘N Low is a prized commodity, hoarded by anorexics to trade with overeaters for cigarettes or favors. Sandra, who’s got a violent sweet tooth, has been known to pay cash. Charlotte, who is a bitch, charges a dollar per packet. Murphy, who has a heart of gold, gives Sandra her Sweet ‘N Low for free.”
If you want to read something with a bit of an edge then this is the short story collection for you. I found the stories imaginative and touching.
And, now I get to mark this as another book down for the Short Story challenge. I also want to thank Open City Books for sending me this collection. I’ve just taken a look at their web site and have added more titles to my wish list.