A debut volume of short stories explores Canadian Jewish identity.
Seven stories are offered here, united by the themes of religion, love, and outsiders. The collection opens with “Restaurants,” an intriguing tale about Sarah, a Jewish waitress who embarks on an affair with Samir, a Palestinian co-worker. Kreuter cleverly considers the fling from the perspectives of both lovers and David, Sarah’s boyfriend. This is followed by “Amsterdam,” which tells of three young Canadian Jewish men who take a detour from their visit to Israel to have a blowout in Amsterdam before heading home. They smoke weed and visit the red-light district—a generic tale but for the fact they are tormented by the memory of Anne Frank. Other stories include the offbeat “Searching for Crude,” about a wealthy CEO who is mesmerized by a guitarist named Crude and becomes obsessed with matching his musicianship, and “Ninety-Nine,” about two close friends who are riven apart when one chooses to become “a traditional Jewish woman.” The volume ends with a longer, yet somewhat nondescript, tale about a group of girls following a band across America. The collection shows signs of a burgeoning talent but lacks consistency. In the opening of the book, Kreuter’s writing is a potent cocktail of racial tension and carnal desire: “That first time he came inside her and his whole body emptied out, his history and sorrows and worries purged for what felt like the first time.” By the close, his prose is noticeably diluted. “Chasing the Tonic” offers a watery contemporary regurgitation of 1960s hippiedom: “What did he believe in? The open road, music, the night sky, that, as he put it more than once, ‘Music and dancing and the redistribution of wealth can change the world.’ ” Kreuter’s narratives always deliver strong, concise messages. For example “Searching for Crude” attacks the rapacious nature of capitalist endeavors. But as a new writer, he tends to unnecessarily telegraph this lesson: “He didn’t want to be Crude. He wanted to consume him, to take his unrefined magic and keep it locked in a safe.” The author should trust his readership and the strength of his storylines rather than feel the need to hammer his points home. Still, Kreuter’s writing at its best has an addictive intensity that will leave most readers wanting more.
A singular, if uneven, collection of tales with flashes of brilliance.