This debut is populated by characters who make unusual choices (big or small, intentional or not) and then face the fallout.
Some books of short stories feel like subtle variations on a theme—practically the same tale over and over again. Not this one. The 11 entries in Maizes’ collection are deliciously diverse. In the title story, Markus, a 13-year-old boy, decides to come out via his bar mitzvah speech and then copes with the cascading consequences of his bold, unusual choice. “Remember the valedictorian who came out in his graduation speech? His video was downloaded two million times….That’s what I’m going to do in temple,” Markus tells his boyfriend. In “Collections,” Maya, a 65-year-old woman, struggles to adjust to her significantly diminished status and circumstances after the death of her wealthy partner of 14 years, for whom she had originally been hired to cook. “The bedroom wasn’t far from the kitchen,” we’re told. In “Couch,” a therapist’s practice and life are dramatically transformed when she replaces the seating in her office with a couch that magically improves the outlook of anyone who sits on it. “Patients so depressed they questioned the value of their lives, so anxious they rarely left their homes, found relief as soon as they settled onto the sea-foam cushions,” Maizes informs us. Certainly there are a few recurring elements in these stories: Jewish characters, beloved pets, people who love obsessively and/or unrequitedly, and tragic deaths, to name a few. Yet each succinct fictional nugget rolls inexorably along its own quirky trajectory, arrives at its own unexpected destination, and never overstays its welcome. Titular shoutout to a CNN talking head notwithstanding, this is a book about the heart.
Breaking news: Maizes’ gently witty and vaguely weird collection is well worth reading.