Off the Shelf: Discovering an Unfamiliar Author (Book Review)

I was unsuccessful at the library the other day - the books on my to-read list were all checked out.  So I decided to use this as an opportunity to read an author I was unfamiliar with.  As I was perusing the shelves of "New and Popular" books, I happened upon the latest by David Guterson, Problems with People, a collection of short stories.  Guterson is best known for his novel Snow Falling on Cedars (1994) which was adapted into a film in 1999.  Having heard many wonderful things about that novel, I went to see if it was available for check-out and, when it wasn't, I figured I'd give this one a try.  I haven't read many collections of short stories since my college days, but recall them giving me a good feel for an author's style. 

Problems with People
In Problems with People Guterson lives up to his reputation as a master of prose.  It is a sentimental, often humorous look into the psyches of very believable characters and dissects what makes each of them tick including crazy obsessions, family dynamics, estranged relationships, and reconciling with the past.

Each of the ten short stories had elements I enjoyed, particularly characters that I could relate to on some level and sympathize with. Most of the stories (no, not all) quickly grabbed my interest. However, what bothered me about the collection was that each short, perhaps with the exception of "Krassavitseh" and "Hush," ended abruptly, too abruptly, making the stories feel incomplete. They left me longing for just a few more pages to provide proper closure.  Also, the stories were predictable leaving much to be desired in terms of plot. 

Overall, the collection does a wonderful job of portraying everyday nuances of people's struggles and personality quirks.  It is a quick read that you can break up by story and read in between other novels or zip through them all at once. I recommend the collection to fans of adult literary fiction who may be looking for a casual read.

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  1. Sounds good to me...

    1. Give it a try, let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!

  2. A great review. I think I will try and get hold of this collection. Thank you for the insightful summary.

  3. A very insightful review! I think I will grab a hold of this collection and check it out. Sounds quite interesting.


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