Let me state off the bat that I am undeniably biased when it comes to the writing of S.E. Hinton. Her groundbreaking young adult novel The Outsiders is perhaps my favorite book of all time. I read it when I was about 13 years old and instantly felt like she knew me. Okay, her book was about economically disadvantaged boys in a class struggle in rural Oklahoma, and I was a girl living a comfortable existence in suburban Michigan, but still, The Outsiders spoke to me. It made me, and so many other young adults, feel like someone really understood what it was like to be young. Of course, Hinton was only 16 herself when she wrote the book, so that probably helped.
But being an adult hasn’t made her any less perceptive. Her latest book, Some of Tim's Stories, is
a series of inter-connected short stories about two cousins, Mike and Terry. After an idyllic childhood interrupted by a major family tragedy, the two boys, closer than brothers, drift into a troubled adulthood. Terry goes to prison for a crime perpetrated by both he and Mike. Guilt-ridden Mike leads a stilted, shame-filled adulthood, working as a bartender and denying himself happiness as a penance for his freedom.
That is enough for a great short-story collection, and Hinton delivers. The brief, taut stories are emotionally lacerating. A seemingly simple tale about Mike’s relationship with a
likable movie buff starts sweet but turns sad and wistful when it becomes clear that Mike left the woman because of his guilt over Terry. Another story, about Mike’s
father waking in the middle of the night, riddled with Vietnam-induced nightmares, is a tender examination of father-son love. The stories are moving and smart and
drive toward an appropriate conclusion.
In author’s notes at the end of the book, Hinton says that the “Tim” of the title is actually the book’s narrator – an unseen character, never mentioned in any of the stories - and that she’s writing in his voice, not her own. But fans of The Outsiders will still recognize Hinton here. After all these years, she’s still perceptive, still insightful, still endlessly readable.