This is an interesting and unusual collection, a fresh perspective, a brew of the lost and disaffected caught in the web of the past while treading the unstable territory of the present. The detritus of often chaotic childhoods reveals fathers and sons, sons and mothers, young people forging their identities from fragments.
Some are misfits, others merely sorting through limited choices and family issues, yet each new protagonist must face a personal crisis, craving a place, any place in an all too unfriendly world. In “Ghost Birds,” a young BASE diver seeks to reconcile the present with the fears of the past: “What we think is a gesture of freedom… is a symptom of our cage.”
In another (“Amy’s Watch”), a young woman is trapped in an impossible conundrum, fighting the ghost of her sister for the affections of a man who has loved them both: “She would have liked to tell [her sister] of the inheritance of haunted men she left in her wake.”
The theme of the collection is revealed in the title story: “You have to limit your longings.” In search of the missing elements that bring us peace, distraction is commonplace, inner turmoil betrayed by our own demons while attempting the face of normalcy. Ultimately, “an answer isn’t the same as a solution.”
The author plays with contrast in these stories: the expectations of youth and the disillusionment of lives hard-lived; parents who have abandoned; inappropriate role models; the destructive physical attractions of young love.
The prose is rich and clear, the characters well defined, particularly interior lives, including the inner dialog as well as the obvious, subtle emotional layers that render these people visual and familiar. Yet they remain riddled with ambiguities and vague yearnings, dreaming of change while surrounded by dysfunctional role models, rudderless and inept at finding solutions.
Each carefully wrought tale is layered, the themes universal, isolation, loneliness, abandonment, fear and confusion; and each reveals an essential insight, these small vignettes of everyday people caught in the complexities of life and circumstances out of their control.