This “found” short story collection takes an unabashed look at life in America through a variety of unfortunate eyes.
Through his New Wei publishing company, Desai (The Brotherhood, 2012) presents this collection of six stories—one of which is a told in three-parts—as the first volume of the Human Tragedy series. In these tales, the collection covers a wide range of voices and topics: “Old Guido” tells of a prejudiced Italian immigrant and his accidental relationship with an underage Hispanic girl; the vignette “Bridget’s Brother” confronts loneliness and family ties; “The Apprentice” describes the Dominican-descended Javier, his Asian masseuse and his struggle up the academic ladder toward a tenured professorship; and “The Mountain” involves a philosophical conversation between two friends on a surprisingly dangerous hike. “Malta: a Love Story,” a 138-page odyssey in three parts, follows the eponymous character from one unfortunate turn of events to another, and the final story, “Dhan’s Debut,” follows an ambitious reporter in New York City as she ferrets out the truth behind a charismatic lawyer. While “Dhan’s Debut” is something of a letdown with its out-of-left-field ending, the other stories speak volumes about the human condition and modern life in America. Best of all, despite their difficult subjects, each one achieves that level of consideration without any sense of judgment or moralizing to cloud the experience; it’s left to readers to make up their own minds about what they just witnessed. Though most of the stories have happy endings, they’re not happily-ever-afters. These endings are real: People die, peace is found or made, and lives are changed—or, sometimes, not. Just like our own lives. And therein lies the power of this first volume, which, while not as grandiose or revolutionary as the fictionalized introduction makes it out to be, is a solid collection of rare caliber.
Difficult subjects portrayed for readers who want to be challenged as well as entertained.