THE ISLAND DWELLERS by Jen Silverman

THE ISLAND DWELLERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Playwright Silverman’s debut story collection deals with a coterie of international nomads, lost girls, and millennial wastrels as they navigate the mean streets of New York and the clean streets of Tokyo, among other places.

Camilo is a feckless performance artist who is liberated from sexual monogamy. Ancash is the sleek, ethereal diplomat's son who engineers violence into his sexual encounters. Yuliya, a refugee from the turmoil of Cape Verde, navigates Tokyo as if by not touching she can spare herself from being touched. Sarah, a professor in Iowa, resolves to be a “bad person” only with her impossibly lovelorn teaching assistant, Topher, but finds she cannot contain badness to the bedroom alone. In a book filled with memorable characters, Silverman’s sharp sense of place, her eye for telling detail, and her pitch-perfect dialogue tumble these stories through their interlocking narratives with great brio. Told from alternating locales (New York, Tokyo, Iowa, Yokohama), these first-person narratives of drift and wrack detail the generational angst of young, urban, queer, or allied loners as they seek to navigate a world whose rules are in flux and where all identity seems to lead to anonymity. Characters reappear throughout the collection. This has the effect of creating community out of what might otherwise feel like an excess of alienation but unfortunately also results in highlighting the thematic similarities between the stories. The characters, while all compelling in their own rights, are all disaffected in similar ways—the men needy; the women resistant to being needed. This thematic overlap has the unfortunate effect of weakening the impact of the individual stories. Even when they are motivated by unique premises, the characters' responses, both to each other and to the world through which they drift, do not startle the reader so much as confirm what the reader has already been led to believe. 


A shimmering collection that speaks with humor and, ultimately, tenderness about people whose lives rarely allow for either.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-399-59149-5
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2018




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