i’m living in an empty room

Amy Bloom. I have never read anything of hers before. I mean, I worked at a bookstore at the height of her Away‘s popularity, but I never did much more than crack the cover and read the book jacket. So why I chose this collection (A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You) of her short stories to start with, I’m not entirely sure.

I kept reading. The dark family secret that divides a family and drives a stepson and his stepmother to quietly struggle through quiet family moments. The mistress unsure what to do with her dying lover’s family. The mourning mother struggling to love the most unloveable child she can find. Such twisted, unhealthy, subnormal love, written with such beautiful sentences. I didn’t know whether I loved or hated it I felt so disturbed. (Can no one love with within healthy boundaries?)

But.

The last story. Not really a story so much as the deconstruction of a story. The deconstruction of a story into bits and pieces so believable I just looked Amy Bloom up online to see if that was actually her story. That story was worth the whole book. Let me see if I can explain.

The very first image Bloom gives us in Story is that of the declining house market. She describes how the homeowners for sale signs become more and more desperate, more blunt, and then she says “I have thought that I could buy that house.” The narrator is talking about the house that no one wants, whose owners are desperate to have off their hands…and then she tells us a pretty story about how she would live in that house no one wanted.
Then we are told a story about a neighbor couple and their daughter, which she revises, taking out all the pretty details, and then revises further, adding grotesque features to both their marriage and her place in its demise. When the story finishes, we find “Amy,” the narrator who is but isn’t Bloom herself, living in that house [marriage] that she perceived as unwanted, even though she had to reduce it to its most desperate to make room for herself in it.

It’s a terrible image. An awful, uncomfortable story. But SO beautifully written, with lines like this:

There is no such thing as a good writer and a bad liar.

I don’t know. I both wanted to give this book five stars and one star. I think I’ll go read something happy now.

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