Across the Page: February 2010

Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom (Random House)

As with Amy Bloom’s other work, including Away and Come to Me, her new collection of interconnected short stories, Where the God of Love Hangs Out, strikes a unique balance of presenting characters that are undeniably relatable and, at the same time, entirely new.

The first series of connected stories revolve around the lives of William and Clare. The middle-aged pair make for an unlikely but endearing couple. heir story begins as the two — married to other people — realize that there is something more intimate to their close friendship.

This realization is complicated for many reasons, including their respective marriages, children, and William’s poor health. Bloom captures the tenderness and the selfishness of both Clare and William — their genuine love and ability to justify their betrayal — in four tight stories that switch points of view and take the relationship from it’s inception to its startling and heartbreaking end.

Another series of interconnected stories in the collection focuses on a family. When Lionel Sr. dies, Julia is left to care of their two children — her stepson, Lionel Jr., and her biological son, Buster. On the night of the funeral, Lionel Jr., nineteen years old and the spitting image of his father, crawls into bed with the grieving Julia and the two sleep together.

The event haunts Julia and Lionel in different but profound ways and Bloom shows how the secret affects the entire family over the course of the next thirty years. Julia takes other lovers — men and a woman — and Lionel moves to Paris where he finally settles down after dating a collection of distant and provocative women (usually single mothers).

It is in this series that Bloom reveals her unique ability to challenge the reader to see difficult and at times anomalous situations and characters from a different perspective — one of empathy.

The collection’s other stories are also equally worthy and feature distinct characters, from a young woman grieving the murder of her roommate by laying in her bed and talking to the woman’s mother over the phone, to a grown woman struggling to deal with her abusive and now aging father’s newfound fragility.

The stories in Where the God of Love Hangs Out capture how the mundane and the unexpected, the domestic and the bizarre, often co-exist in life. Brilliant storytelling.

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