In Jean Thompson’s new collection of 12 short stories, girlfriends, husbands, wives, professors, corporate managers and other everyday people struggle with distressing circumstances, ranging from the mundane (corporate apathy) to the tragic (spousal abuse).
Of course, what sets story collections apart from each other is an author’s style and interpretation of such life circumstances.
In Do Not Deny Me, I found simplicity in rendering characters’ actions and interactions to be the definitive element. It keeps the narratives real and lovely, even when the topics aren’t lovely.
I enjoyed spending time with Thompson’s characters, not only because they are likable but also because Thompson doesn’t throw dramatic curve balls for shock value or to be ultra unique. Often that happens in short stories, as if to create an artistic ‘punch’ instead of telling a good story.
These are good stories.
One of her most heart-moving characters is the disillusioned husband/father/businessman who builds a tree house for himself in his backyard. It’s a place where he can be quiet, looking up into the sky through a leafy canopy.
A regular guy with a wife and two kids, one in college, he says, “You wake up one day and you realize, you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, like you’re going someplace. But you’re not.”
His wife takes this strange new project personally, “as if he were withholding some part of himself from her.” His college-aged daughter, home briefly from summer adventures, thinks he’s gone off the deep end. But – like many everyday people in fiction and real life – he’s just in the confusing beginnings of finding a new way to go forward.
I didn’t over think these characters, as I can do, rather let them stand as they are, imagined creations that reflect people we know, or know of, let alone our very selves – gifts to ponder and remember, during and after the stories, not to deny.