Thursday, August 2, 2012
Published December 2010 by Atticus Books
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for this review
About a year and a half ago, I was contacted by indie publisher Atticus Books wondering if I wanted to work with them. I said "yes" for two reasons: I wanted to encourage a small publisher by helping get word out about their books and because they had some very interesting-sounding books. They sent this one and it went straight on the shelf with my other review books where...I forgot about them. In my recent frenzy to clean up and weed out, this book came back up for consideration. Once again guilt reared its ugly head - I had told this publisher I would like to work with them and then abandoned them. With the High Summer Read-a-Thon right around the corner, I decided this book would stay and the read-a-thon would be the perfect opportunity to read it.
Not only did The Absent Traveler make an excellent read-a-thon book, it made an excellent choice for lunch time reading - if for no other reason than that it's a slim volume and light to carry! Unfortunately, once again, I'm reminded that I do not like to read an entire book of short stories straight through. De Vallance has a unique voice and some very interesting ideas. But I always end up feeling, as I read story after story, that I'm not getting enough to really sink my teeth into. By far and away, my favorite piece in this collection was the title story, The Absent Traveler, a story about a young man who is floundering trying to find his place in the world. Stuck in a dead end job that doesn't earn him enough money to live decently, Charles Lime is unable to move home because of a contentious relationship with his father and miserable living in the cluttered basement of an alcoholic woman. Charles' only escape are travel books. Things seem to escalate when a high-school classmate comes back to town and strange things begin happening to Charles. This story had a fantastic ending that came out of nowhere for me.
I enjoyed many of the short stories, but I do feel that I would have enjoyed all them more if I had stuck this book in my purse and pulled it out when I needed something short to read. In that context, short stories work really well for me - then I love being able to work through an entire idea in one setting. If you're a fan of short stories, if you're a fan of the offbeat, I would definitely recommend The Absent Traveler.