Thank You to Simon & Schuster for providing me with an advanced copy of Susan Perabo's short story collection, Why They Run the Way They Do, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT- Susan Perabo's short story collection, Why They Run the Way They Do, is filled with mentally unbalanced, secretive, and lonely characters. They face cancer, torrid affairs, and accidental deaths. One story even has a child choosing to name her stuffed armadillo; Michael, a name that sends chills through her parent's, which the reader will learn is the name of a man that her mother had an affair with many years in the past. Until this reveal, the story has the air of a ghost tale and is unsettling. Although the stories involve heavy subjects, irony and wit dominate in Perabo's writing.
LIKE- Perabo writes in a direct, almost confrontational manner. Many of her stories are told in first person. Combining this narrative choice and strong voice, her characters were daring me to be judgmental. They demand to be heard. These characters often make odd, if not terrible decisions. For example, in the title story, co-workers are having an affair and they decide to pay a monthly fee to "adopt" a needy child from Africa to be "their baby". As they stay late in the office, they become overly invested in this child living on another continent, relying on her to fill a gap in their relationship.
In The Payoff, two sixth grade girls witness a sexual act between their art teacher and the school principal. They decide to blackmail the principal, multiple times. With each blackmail letter, they become more willing to insert their personal feelings towards the situation. Neither girl realizes that they are too young to understand the complexities of this adult relationship or the damage that they are inflicting.
Although I enjoyed all of the stories, one reigns supreme. Indulgence begins with a mom thrilled to have dodged lung cancer after years of being a smoker. She does however, have brain cancer. Her adult daughter returns home for a weekend to be with her mom before the cancer diminishes her. During this weekend, the daughter tries to tell her mother all of the things that she needs to say, but her mother cuts her off, letting her know that some things have to remain a secret and go unresolved. Indulgence was a punch to my gut. My mom died of cancer and Perabo's story made me long to have taken the opportunity to have those tough conversations with my mom. I want a redo. The real kicker is the twist at the end. I was left sobbing.
DISLIKE- Nothing. Perabo's collection is riveting. Her stories are haunting and tragic, often taking me to places that I didn't want to visit, but felt compelled to stay.
RECOMMEND- Yes! In Why They Run the Way They Do, Perabo tackles uncomfortable, taboo topics with humor and grace. Her talent for creating memorable characters is undeniable.