In Schutt's latest collection, each story stands alone on its merits, small islands of truth, isolated incidents that make up the whole cloth, the prose thrifty, skillful and mesmerizing. In her riveting stories, the author offers a vision of the inner workings of the human psyche, the protagonists unabashedly revealing their flaws.
"Darkest of All" approaches the ambivalence of motherhood, small, fragrant boys grown to unpredictable young men; their mother hides her fears behind walls of her own invention; another story speaks to the careless intimacies of college life ("Weather is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful"), focusing on pleasures of the moment, knowing it is only a fragment of the rest of a person's life. Yet another meditation on the intransigence of youth and the passage of time is found in "Do You Think I Am Who I Will Be?"
The author illustrates exactly how our days are lived in moments, decisions, encounters that are later recalled. In subtle and powerful language, Schutt observes the human condition, her message clear and precise. Life is viewed through the prism of age. In "The Human Season," a mother yearns for a visit from her son who is a great comfort, but he will not come, refusing to bring his new girlfriend to the place where his mother resides with an abusive man who is bitter and jealous of the mother-son relationship.
"The Life of the Palm and the Breast" is about the sweet pleasures of love and family, so intensely vital that caution lingers in the air, whispering "what if"; a young woman's visit to her grandparents awakens long-forgotten memories in "They Turn Their Bodies into Spears," the quiet adaptation of old age interrupted by the energy the granddaughter brings to their home, stimulating recollections of her mother. Unsettling, these memories stir the air.
In another tale, "Unrediscovered, Unrenamable." a young son's innocent awakening on a summer island is silenced by his mother's cruel and crude response; he asks, "But what is my purpose?" And in "Winterreise", we understand the pain accrued in watching a friend suffer, sharing the present, avoiding the past, "whatever came before and marked her has been sanded away." In all of these stories, shards of lives are cast on the ground where the light touches each briefly, illuminating, then moving on to the next.
Schutt examines multi-faceted emotions in each small gem, always with an eye on the passage of time, when the past is all there is as the future disappears, eaten by each new day. There are moments of youth and joy; there are moments of grief and despair. The collection is written from the perspective of a certain age, the author's smoldering wisdom informing the very things that once were puzzling but now ring clear.
Schutt possesses a unique gift, a poetic voice that surfaces in the structure and sound of the language she chooses, her voice individual, recognizable from one tale to the next as she bites off pieces of lives, each new taste revealing human nature and its consequences. Schutt hops from person to person, moment to moment, a reminder that this is exactly how life occurs, that "it is hard to live above time."