of eleven short stories by award-winning poet and novelist
Jendi Reiter focuses mostly on interpersonal relationships
and overcoming grief, fear, and isolation. Several stories
include gay characters struggling with their homosexuality,
and adolescents contemplating how their religious backgrounds
fit into their evolving self-image.
The length and style of these stories varies, but an underlying
sadness permeates most of them. The language mixes pop culture,
erudite allusions, and poetic expression for an interesting
combination that requires careful attention. For instance,
in the story “An Incomplete List of My Wishes,”
a divorced woman onboard an airplane reflects on her experience
at a funeral, her divorce, a family member’s death,
and the solemn occasion to which she is headed. Most of the
story consists of her reflections with no action occurring
until the end. Filled with great sadness, flashes of anger,
touches of humor, and ultimately, a revelation expressed as
a metaphor, this story packs a memorable punch in just 10
Other stories explore family dynamics, adultery, aging, and
infertility, although each selection includes multiple subtexts.
For instance, in “Today You Are a Man,” written
in a stream of consciousness style, a gay Jewish boy fantasizes
about comic book superheroes to help him deal with his tumultuous
coming of age, his father’s infidelity, and his shaky
understanding of Judaism, marriage, and homosexuality. Usually
associated with a Bar Mitzvah, the term “Today You Are
a Man” means something different in this story.
Complex and lovely, this collection is the kind of book where
readers will stop reading after each story and think about
how the characters mirror their own lives. These are stories
to be savored.