The “Novel Ideas” book group meets at the Jarrettsville branch of HCPL at 10:30 AM on the fourth Monday of each month. Recently they selected a title that strikes me as being an innovative choice and a difficult book to discuss. They chose You Are Not a Stranger Here by Adam Haslett, a debut short story collection that explores different aspects of depression and mental illness.
As Claire Dederer, a reviewer at Amazon.com says, “Adam Haslett drags into the light subjects often left in the cellar.” Most of the stories are told from the viewpoint of the mentally ill, though one is told by the doctor in the case. Others are stories are about closeted homosexuals: boys who are coming to terms with their identity and men who never have.
Despite the sensational topics, Haslett writes quietly, plainly and with truth and sensitivity about the people in his stories. As Ms. Dederer said, “this is a beautifully written collection that’s as heartfelt as it is intelligent.”
Members of the Novel Ideas group, and anyone else who has read the book, do please add your comments to this posting. Below are some questions that might bear discussion, or contribute your own insights to the dialog.
Did you find a book of short stories difficult to discuss? Did you find that the collection had any themes that made it hang together?
What did you think of the beauty of the writing?
In The Good Doctor, Haslett writes of Frank, a young MD, “The fact was he still felt like a sponge, absorbing the pain of the people he listened to.” In your opinion, is the reader of these stories likely to be able to cope with all the pain of all the people?
The next meeting of the Novel Ideas will be at 10:30 AM on Monday, April 23, 2007. They will discuss When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka. For information call (410) 692-7887.