The Secret Lives of People in Love

The Secret Lives of People in Love

4.5 9
by Simon Van Booy
     
 

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The Secret Lives of People in Love is the first short story collection by award-winning writer Simon Van Booy. These stories, set in Kentucky, New York, Paris, Rome, and Greece, are a perfect synthesis of intensity and atmosphere. Love, loss, human contact, and isolation are Van Booy's themes. In radiant prose he writes about the difficult choices we make in

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Overview

The Secret Lives of People in Love is the first short story collection by award-winning writer Simon Van Booy. These stories, set in Kentucky, New York, Paris, Rome, and Greece, are a perfect synthesis of intensity and atmosphere. Love, loss, human contact, and isolation are Van Booy's themes. In radiant prose he writes about the difficult choices we make in order to retain our humanity and about the redemptive power of love in a violent world.

Included in this updated P.S. edition is the new story "The Mute Ventriloquist."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

A breadth of experience and setting distinguishes this somber first collection of 18 very short stories by New York-based Van Booy. "Little Birds" is narrated by a teenage boy of uncertain parentage who sketches his life with his devoted foster father, Michel, in working-class Paris: "It is the afternoon of my birthday, but still the morning of my life. I am walking on the Pont des Arts." In "Some Bloom in Darkness," an aging railroad station clerk's witness of a violent scene between a man and woman translates in his mind into an infatuation with a store mannequin. Other tales are set in Rome ("I live in Rome where people sit by fountains and kiss"), small villages in Cornwall or Wales, and in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Van Booy's characters are shipwrecked by fate and memory but tarry on, like the narrator of "Distant Ships," a lifelong Royal Mail loader who stopped speaking after the death of his son 20 years earlier, or the homeless man chased by ghosts in "The Shepherd on the Rock," who aims to "live out the last of my life" at John F. Kennedy International Airport. These tales have at once the solemnity of myth and the offhandedness of happenstance. (May)

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Kirkus Reviews
Lonely, vulnerable protagonists grieve in Paris, New York, Wales, Rome, Kentucky and other locales. The 18 brief, elliptical stories in this debut collection rely heavily on mood and lyricism. Their narrative strands are often gossamer. In "Distant Ships," a Welsh package sorter agonizes over his son's long-ago death, which chased away his wife and made him forswear speaking. "Apples" involves a Russian-born cobbler mourning his wife and daughter; he nurtures the apple seedlings indoors through winter, then plants them in a vacant lot year after year, creating an orchard that spawns Brooklyn's only apple festival. Young Edgar, bereft after his mother's demise, meets a mysterious turbaned man who teaches him how to reconnect to the sensory world in "Where They Hide Is a Mystery." Van Booy's clean, simple, delicate prose suits the material's sadness: It's hard to imagine a more arresting precis of isolation than, "Serge's only other friend was a blind tobacconist from Ukraine called Peter, who when not being beaten by his wife played obsolete military songs on the accordion." Yet for all their somberness, these stories exude an abiding sweetness. The characters cling to optimism, even to love, despite their frailties and straitened circumstances. Marred at times by sameness of tone and occasional lapses into preciosity, but lovely and genuinely touching. This talented author bears watching.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061766121
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/23/2010
Series:
P.S. Series
Pages:
175
Sales rank:
406,043
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Simon Van Booy is the author of two novels and two collections of short stories, including The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. He is the editor of three philosophy books and has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and the BBC. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

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