Monday, August 24, 2020

Daddy: Stories by Emma Cline

Daddy: Stories by Emma Cline

Published September 2020 by Random House Publishing Group

Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:

An absentee father collects his son from boarding school after a shocking act of violence. A nanny to a celebrity family hides out in Laurel Canyon in the aftermath of a tabloid scandal. A young woman sells her underwear to strangers. A notorious guest arrives at a placid, not-quite rehab in the Southwest. 

In ten remarkable stories, Emma Cline portrays moments when the ordinary is disturbed, when daily life buckles, revealing the perversity and violence pulsing under the surface. She explores characters navigating the edge, the limits of themselves and those around them: power dynamics in families, in relationships, the distance between their true and false selves. They want connection, but what they provoke is often closer to self-sabotage. What are the costs of one’s choices? Of the moments when we act, or fail to act? These complexities are at the heart of Daddy, Emma Cline’s sharp-eyed illumination of the contrary impulses that animate our inner lives.

My Thoughts:

Four years ago I read and reviewed Cline's debut, The Girls, and was impressed by her writing and remarked that I was looking forward to reading more of her work. So I jumped at the change to read her latest effort; but I'm nearly always torn about short story collections and this one was no exception. As is so often the case, some stories were more interesting than others; and, although there's no doubt that the stories are, for the most part well written, some are certainly better written. 

All of the stories are small pieces of the bigger picture. In many of the stories, we soon become aware that we have missed something big and we leave the story still not aware of exactly what has happened. But what has happened isn't exactly the point of the story; how the characters react is a story unto itself. The stories are, to my way of thinking, unceasingly dark, exposing the ugliness of people. Some of the stories focus on the older men looking back on the failures of their lives (What You Can Do With A General, which looks at a father who doesn't under his grown children who have come home); others focus on young women dealing with the seedy side of the world they live in (Los Angeles, about a young woman who decides to take advantage of the sexual perversity of men without understanding the ramifications of her actions). 

My takeaways from this collection:

  • Cline is certainly a talented young author who writes intelligent works and who crafts realistic stories and characters.
  • From what I've seen so far, Cline is inclined to look at the dark side of life.
  • Knowing that going in will help set expectations and help me to make sure I'm reading her work in the right frame of mind. 

When you're reading books for review, you don't necessarily get the chance to read the book that suits your mood. I don't think this one did that for me and I can't help but wonder if I would actually have enjoyed it more if I had read it at another time. Or, if I so often wonder about short story collections, if I would have enjoyed it more if I had broken it up instead of reading straight through it. 

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