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It's pretty dark down there. But groping through the darkness and into the light together can be just the challenge to ignite a stellar book group conversation.
In fact, that's what just happened when our local book group got together over appetizers and The Best American Short Stories 2011. Although we all agreed that this was a rather bleak collection - with occasional and welcome rays of light - we had so much to talk about (twenty stories, to be exact) and the content was so diverse that our conversation soared.
Our favorites in this collection included Irish writer Claire Keegan's gentle, affecting "Foster", the tale of a poor young girl sent to spend a summer with a couple who've recently lost their own young son; George Saunders' speculative "Escape from Spiderhead" (think "Harrison Bergeron" set in a human testing lab for psycho-active drugs); "To The Measures Fall" by Richard Powers, a piece about how one's shifting responses to the same novel over the course of one's life reveal more about who we are than about the story itself; and Caitlin Horrocks's "The Sleep", which intrigued the English teachers in our group with its third person plural perspective and provided plenty of grist for the conversational mill with its core premise: a town so depressing in winter that its citizens begin to hybernate from Thanksgiving through Easter.
And then there were the stories that stymied one or all ("Gurov in Manhattan" in particular); these, in fact, led to some of the most animated and thought-provoking discussions of all.
Even with its somewhat sobering overall tone, I would heartily recommend this collection - or others in this series - to book groups. Most of our members noted with enthusiasm how much they enjoyed exploring this genre, one they don't usually indulge in, but we all agreed that the best way to read a grouping like this is to ration: read one per day and let it "sink in", percolate through your consciousness a bit, before moving on to the next.
I give this a five-star rating for book groups who welcome a diversity of opinions to match varied but high quality content.
p.s. My action on this one is actually creating this review and posting it on Goodreads and Amazon, because I hadn't planned to do so yet I do believe that other book groups will enjoy it.
And for, It's Monday, What Are You Reading blog hop at Book Journey, right now I'm 3/4 of the way through the light and fluid international romance Random Placement (I realized too late that it would be a terrific read for a plane trip, so I forced myself to stop until tomorrow's trip to ABQ), re-reading sections of Danny Dreyer's Chi Running for my second week of C25K training, and starting Michael Chabon's latest Telegraph Avenue for the read-along at As The Crowe Flies and Reads that begins tomorrow.