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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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“Breathtaking. . .chillingly beautiful, like postcards from Eden. . .Van Booy’s stories are somehow like paintings the characters walk out of, and keep walking.” -Los Angeles Times

In his critically-acclaimed debut collection of short stories, The Secret Lives of People in Love, Simon Van Booy explores the sway of fate and


“Breathtaking. . .chillingly beautiful, like postcards from Eden. . .Van Booy’s stories are somehow like paintings the characters walk out of, and keep walking.” -Los Angeles Times

In his critically-acclaimed debut collection of short stories, The Secret Lives of People in Love, Simon Van Booy explores the sway of fate and power of memory on the lives of lonely and vulnerable people. With the same spare, economical prose that he brought to his subsequent collection, Love Begins in Winter, winner of the 2009 Frank O’Connor Short Story Award, Van Booy creates a profoundly humane and somber resonance with the assured hand of “a first-rate storyteller” (Newsday). The Secret Lives of People in Love announces the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.

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.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
P.S. Series
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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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The Secret Lives of People in Love 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Yvonne-Cawley More than 1 year ago
Simon Van Booy's collection of stories have the confident strength of gravity pulling you into his pages so that the reader becomes a sponge taking on the mood of the story. Subtle imagery makes you pause and reread the paragraph, the sentence the word so as to fully feel the scene and the weight and sometimes burden of its beauty. I refused to read this book in a waiting room or in public because I did not want to squander the experience; I wanted to feel the story without any distraction, feeling free to linger because this book is a rare encounter and something to be savored.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked this book on whim after just reading a few pages in the store. Something caught me about this book. These stories are so well written, I found myself enthralled by this book. Descriptions that find the bare essence of a scene, characters who show the many sides of humanity. There is no pretense in this writing, it is intensely focused storytelling. Some stories are inspiring, some poignant but every one a gem. I highly recommend this book for both its stories and being so beautifully written.
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed peeling away the layers and enjoying this one in small bits. Although it wasn¿t my intention to take an entire year to read it, reading it this way seemed proper. These are not stories to rush through. This was my first experience with Van Booy¿s writing but it definitely won¿t be my last.
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TheCloud More than 1 year ago
Van Booy's medium, the short story, compels. Every single story in this collection gave me chills, and I don't mean goosebumps, but actual chills that ran up and down my spine. If the economy has you worried, read Van Booy's work. Just one story at bedtime is a prescription for pleasure. I can't wait for his second collection of stories to come out.
SillyPuttyHD More than 1 year ago
I somewhat regret buying this. I really thought I would like it. I read a few of the stories and they just didn't speak to me. Try buying a single story before paying for the entire collection if you're unsure. I so badley wanted to like these stories, I will try again. Maybe a different story or maybe the same story again at another time. From the description I expcted to fall in love immediately. I didn't, but I'm not gonna give up! lol Sometimes it's just not the right season.I hope to update this review more positvely in the future.