A probing and deeply ruminative cross-genre odyssey.
Meidav (Lola, California, 2012, etc.) pulls readers through a series of dreamy, complex, poignant stories with language that is by turns gauzy-poetic and pinpoint-precise but unfailingly inventive. Divided into three sections of short fiction, "Believers," "Dreamers," and "Knaves," the book ends with a coda of two touching and philosophically expansive essays, which, by their curious inclusion, stand as tacit commentary on the membranes of varying thickness and toughness between the fictive and the "real"; the permeability of each to the other. In the first of the two, "Questions of Travel," Meidav recalls, among other things, a visit to Parc Güell in Barcelona, which greatly diverged from both the memory of a previous visit and from the glittering image of a postcard that inspired the trip at hand. The story picks at a thread that runs throughout the tales that precede it, of the disparity between perception and memory and experience, between gloss and exegesis, image and analysis. In “Quinceañera,” Meidav dives deep into the complications and bittersweetness of the decline and demise of a passionate childhood friendship, the messiness and roving loyalties of youth, exploring the disappointments and stagnation of the now-grown narrator, the entanglements of responsibility, and “how blame alone can basically embalm you for life.” In “The Buddha of the Vedado,” a young woman waits for her charismatic boyfriend to get out of prison so they can marry and start a family, amid other deprivations of latter-day Cuba. In another, “Beef,” a Southern swindler who supports his cancer-stricken mother invades unsuspecting people’s homes, forcing freezers full of meat upon them and quickly extracting payment, until a couple he’s marked as easy targets swoops down in an act of retribution like the hand of Flannery O’Connor herself.
A penetrating collection that glides among an impressive breadth of storytelling modes with warmth and easy brilliance.