Saturday, July 6, 2013
Fiction: A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel
Date: May 2, 2013
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.)
From GoodReads: A Guide to Being Born is organized around the stages of life—love, conception, gestation, birth—and the transformations that happen as people experience deeply altering life events, falling in love, becoming parents, looking toward the end of life. In each of these eleven stories Ausubel’s stunning imagination and humor are moving, entertaining, and provocative, leading readers to see the familiar world in a new way. In “Atria” a pregnant teenager believes she will give birth to any number of strange animals rather than a human baby; in “Catch and Release” a girl discovers the ghost of a Civil War hero living in the woods behind her house; and in “Tributaries” people grow a new arm each time they fall in love. Funny, surprising, and delightfully strange—all the stories have a strong emotional core; Ausubel’s primary concern is always love, in all its manifestations.
My review: The content of collections such as this are always hit-or-miss with me. Because the stories are so short, it seems like they either strike a personal chord with me or are easily forgettable. The stories in A Guide to Being Born were about half and half. Sometimes, I was left wondering what point Ausubel was trying to convey. Other stories, I loved for their combination of magical realism and details of everyday contemporary life. All, however, were intriguing and thought-provoking.
The ones that stood out: While the opening story, "Safe Passage," was fascinating simply for its unusualness and dreamlike surrealism, the next story, "Poppyseed," was strikingly bittersweet. "Chest of Drawers" was perhaps my favorite, exploring gender roles and one couple's relationship from the male's perspective as he watches his wife's body change with her first pregnancy. I enjoyed reading "Magniloquence" the most, as I could easily connect it to the world of academia of which I am on the edge. It would be hilarious to see my professors in the story's scenario!