BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories by Lauren Groff

Delicate Edible BirdsIf the name Lauren Groff sounds familiar, that might be because her latest title, Arcadia, appears on oh-so-many Best-of-2012 lists. I admit I haven’t yet read Arcadia (it’s high in my ‘must-read’ pile), but if I have the option among an author’s titles, short stories are usually my first choice.

Just as I clicked ‘on’ knowing nothing more than the lauded reputation associated with Groff’s name, I hope not to dampen anyone else’s eyebrow-raising, shudder-inducing surprise factor. That means you might want to stop here, or you’ll have to risk even the bare minimum being too much …

In “Lucky Chow Fun,” the only girl swimmer on the high school team watches as the discovery of a human trafficking operation destroys the idyllic haze that protected her small town. Swimming transforms the legendary real-life 12th-century lovers, Abelard and Heloise, into 20th-century “L. DeBard and Aliette,” an Olympian and his teenaged wheelchair-bound protegé. In “Majorette,” the oldest daughter in a dysfunctional family finally finds comfort, stability, and lasting happiness. Dysfunction ceaselessly controls the relationship between two intimate friends in “Blythe.” Always maintaining distance, the ex-pat wives bear witness to the slow destruction of “The Wife of the Dictator.”

A professional storyteller becomes the wife of a childhood friend in “Watershed,” only to have her narrative cut short. In “Sir Fleeting,” a Midwestern farm girl reinvents her own personal narrative to eventually match, even surpass, that of the glamorous playboy who appears in and out of her life. In “Fugue” – so aptly named as the most intricate story in the collection – disintegrating relationships overlap and overpower. And, in “Delicate Edible Birds,” again, the lone woman among men, this time in a pack of war correspondents during World War II, falls prey to inhumanity.

All nine stories later, I know I chose remarkably well! [Stuck in the ears – narrated by Susan Eriksen who’s amply capable of multiple nuanced voices – the collection makes for mesmerizing running/walking/laundry-folding company; you’ll just keep going in order to listen!] From absolving to traitorous, from desperate to destructive, each story is a complete narrative to absorb, appreciate, and ultimately admire. Now, Arcadia, here I come!

Readers: Adult

Published: 2009


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