Things Kept, Things Left Behindby Jim Tomlinson
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The stories in Things Kept, Things Left Behind explore the ambiguities of kept secrets, the tangles of abandoned pasts, and uneasy accommodations. Jim Tomlinson’s characters each face the desire to reclaim dreams left behind, along with something of the dreamer that was also lost. Starkly rendered, these spiraling characters inhabit a specific place and class---small-town Kentucky, working-class America---but the stories, told in all their humor and tragedy, are universal.In each story the characters face conflict, sometimes within themselves, sometimes with each other. Each carries a past and with it an urge to return and repair. In “First Husband, First Wife,” ex-spouses are repeatedly drawn together by a shared history they cannot seem to escape, and they are finally forced to choose between leaving the past or leaving each other. LeAnn and Cass are grown sisters who conspire to help their prideful mother in “Things Kept.” “Prologue” is a voyeuristic journey through the surprisingly different lives of two star-crossed friends, each with its successes and pitfalls, told through their letters over thirty-five years. In “Stainless,” Annie and Warren divide their possessions on the final night of their marriage. Their realtor has advised them to “declutter” the house they are leaving, but they discover that most of the clutter cannot be so easily removed. The choices are never simple, and for every thing kept, something must be abandoned. Tomlinson’s characters struggle but eventually find their way, often unknowingly, to points of departure, to places where things just might change.
“Jim Tomlinson’s Things Kept, Things Left Behind is a splendid debut collection of short stories that explores the enduring theme of our quest for an identity. Though deeply connected to the spirit of small towns, these stories reveal aspects of the human condition that have universal resonance. This is an impressive first book in a venerable series by a very talented new voice in American fiction.”-Robert Olen Butler, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
Meet the Author
Jim Tomlinson has published short fiction in Five Points, the Pinch, and Shenandoah. He was awarded the 2005 Al Smith Fellowship for Fiction by the Kentucky Arts Council. He grew up in a small Illinois town and now lives with his wife in rural Kentucky, where he is hard at work on a novel.
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These stories were unlike any short stories I've ever read before. Rather than leaving me wanting more from the characters and the story line, they truly left me satisfied. After each story was finished, I felt as though I had just spent a novel's worth of time with the characters. They were that well developed, and the stories, though tragic at times, are written with a humor and wit that I really enjoyed. In each story there is conflict be it within the characters themselves as they dream about things they've sacrificed or lost out on, or be it between two or more characters. In each story the conflict is real the stories are utterly human, and I think this is why I enjoyed reading them as much as I did. If you like short stories, or even if you don't this is a book I would recommend you pick up in your travels. You won't be sorry.