Owen’s debut gathers lonely hearts from a town called Glass on England’s southern coast and dissects their melancholy across 10 stories. Among those characters “who’d never managed to disguise their disappointment with life” is Eleanor. She’s a kind nurse who, in “Lovers of a Kind,” becomes fond of a local vagrant she suspects was in love with her missing, deranged mother. Tony, an orphan, spends a troubling afternoon at the circus with his only friend, Mr. Avery, in “At the Circus.” There is May, a broken-hearted chanteuse who tolerates her besotted boss in “Virginia’s Birthday,” and the humiliated Kenneth, a dentist whose spirited ex-wife insists upon remaining his patient in “What Is Meant to Remain.” One or two stories veer into the macabre, as when a solitary caregiver takes comfort—pleasure almost—as her elderly ward comes to believe she is his dead wife in “Housekeeper.” And in the title story, Erma comes to the devastating conclusion after the death of her companion Violet that she was never loved in the way she, herself, loved. Owen populates his stories with those who drift, unmoored or lost—folk who believe themselves invisible, obsessed with memories and paths not taken. Though readers may wish for some light to balance the sadness, his is a lovely work of quiet, heart-wrenching prose. (Aug.)
“Owen is a gentle writer who tenderly sifts through his characters’ lives.” —The New York Times Book Review “It’s a book to savor.” —The Millions “A book to treasure . . . these stories are timeless character studies, bolstered by lovely prose and equally stunning insights. This is a collection to read slowly and savor, stories to read again and again. There is no doubt that Owen is writing in the tradition of William Trevor and Yiyun Li.”—Ploughshares “D. Wystan Owen’s debut collection of linked stories, Other People’s Love Affairs, is cause for celebration among readers who finished the final page of the late William Trevor’s Last Stories with regret, and who still hold onto hope that Alice Munro will come out of retirement.” —NY Journal of Books “Owen’s style of expression and unique metaphors can be so beautiful they make one stop and reread . . . engaging . . . Owen is a subtle and keen storyteller whose focus on love and relationships reminds us that headlines and hot topics hold no substance next to tales of the human heart.” —Booklist “A lovely work of quiet, heart-wrenching prose.”—Publishers Weekly “Quietly affecting.” —Library Journal “In ten linked stories, Owen explores 'the realm of human love' through the wistful perspective of characters living in the seaside village of Glass. A delicately crafted first collection.” —BBC.com “Owen’s ability to convey the beauty and grace in small moments of loss and connection, heartbreak and triumph, signals a rare new literary voice, whose words will echo in your head long after you read them.” —Nylon.com “A beautiful book. Owen crafts lovely sentences, many of which unfurl in unexpected ways — which is to say, there is an idiosyncratic, empathetic voice present in each story that invites us to witness heartbreak and hope and the tentative bonds between the two. Other People’s Love Affairs is more than an exceptional debut; it is a masterful work by a writer in full possession of his many gifts.” —Cedar Rapids Gazette “An impressive debut.” —Shelf Awareness “D. Wystan Owen writes exquisite stories that lodge somewhere in my chest and keep detonating—loudly, devastatingly—again and again.” —Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You “D. Wystan Owen has a keen eye for what falls outside the spotlight and what's hidden underneath the surface. Writing in the tradition of Chekhov, William Trevor, and Alice Munro, Owen's stories remind us that the thrills and the dangers of living oftentimes go hand-in-hand with the everydayness of life. In these stories no loss is too small, each moment counts. Owen is not a trendy writer, but a classic one.” —Yiyun Li, author of Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life “D. Wystan Owen’s sentences are so breath-catchingly elegant, his paragraphs so honed for gut-punching power and depth, reading him is a full body experience. The stories of Glass, as subtle as they are profound, reveal us to ourselves in all our emotional complexity, all our loneliness and striving. Think Munro, think Welty, think even, Mansfield—and understand that like the collections by those masters of the short form, this book is strong medicine for a heart-broken world.” —Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted "D. Wystan Owen's stories are studies in quiet perfection. They seem simply to go about their business, with no interest at all in breaking your heart, which makes it all the more devastating when they do. They are deep and honest and graceful, and above all unpitying, yet there is an ache at the center of each one."—Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Illumination "Owen’s characters mostly live in a small town and might themselves claim to live small lives but there is nothing small about the stories he creates on their behalves. His beautifully cadenced stentences plumb the depths of their affections, their ambitions, their defeats; he captures their souls and sets them free. A truly dazzling collection.”—Margot Livesey, author of Mercury “Owen’s stories are uniformly moving.” —Kirkus Reviews
Lonely people look for love.Where do all the lonely people come from? The answer seems to be from Glass, the English seaside town that serves as a backdrop for debut author Owen's short stories. In one, a nurse meets a poor, unkempt man who was once in love with her mother. He asks to volunteer in her hospital, but she refuses him. In another, the owner of a failing nightclub has been in love with a singer for decades after their one-night stand. In yet another, an old man returns to a movie theater where he once fell in love before his date had to return home to her infirm husband. These characters are alone, unhappy, and, deep down, so very good. Owen's stories are uniformly moving (how could you not feel for these people?), but they often border on sentimentality. A few, however, show a bit more steel. In "The Patroness," the hostess of a salon and a formerly beautiful film star snipe at each other. At the end of the party, the hostess gives the actress some much-needed money, and the narrator wonders at her show of "such generosity and malice." In the standout story of the collection, "Housekeeper," an unmarried woman named Louise cares for an old man, who suffers from increasingly severe strokes. As his mental faculties decline, she takes on the persona of his late wife: "She began, then, to read aloud in the voice of another woman, as she had long imagined it. She felt as though she were taking part in a grand and exquisite drama." Louise is sweet and kind, to be sure. She's also more than a little bit creepy. It's an intriguing duality.While sometimes overly sentimental, this collection shows promise in its darker moments.
"In the restaurant, people were eating alone," begins one story in this debut collection set in the English coastal town of Glass. (Owen was raised in both England and California, where he now lives.) Another story observes, "Sunday nights along the boardwalk are slow: locals retired, weekenders gone." Thus does Owen capture the sense of lives sometimes lonely, sometimes melancholy, yet moving steadily like the sea. In the touching opening piece, a woman caring for infants at a hospital seeks out an old man who knew her wild, dangerously irresponsible mother. He wants to help with the children, and when she must refuse, their friendship fades. The owner of a club remains in love with May, who sings there, though she has moved on; a woman tends house for a widower whose daughter rarely visits and finds connection as she reads to him; in the title story, Erma realizes after the death of longtime companion Violet that while she loved more deeply, people saw them as equally involved, itself a comfort. VERDICT Quietly affecting stories for readers tired of fireworks.