The View from the Seventh Layer
Kevin Brockmeier
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Buy *The View from the Seventh Layer: Stories* by Kevin Brockmeier online

The View from the Seventh Layer: Stories
Kevin Brockmeier
288 pages
March 2009
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Kevin Brockmeierís book of short stories, The View from the Seventh Layer: Stories, is perfect for reflective and thoughtful reading. Each story offers a look into the life of its characters, their minds and souls, and the choices they have made. Some focus on regret while others on forward motion. The View from the Seventh Layer: Stories is a blend of beauty, heartache, and reflection.

The book is comprised of thirteen original stories. It opens with ďA Fable Ending in the Sound of a Thousand Parakeets,Ē about a mute man who is surrounded by the songs of his neighbors. No one really knows much about him, often taking him for granted, yet there is so much more to him than anyone realizes.

The story sharing the title of the book, "The View From the Seventh Layer" is perhaps the most revealing of all the stories in the collection, full of small regrets and reflections on what was and what could have been. Olivia spends her summers selling maps and other sundries to tourists and locals on the island. She is a reader who has stopped reading. Her life has not gone the way she imagined it might; she feels trapped and is waiting to be taken away from it all. At the other end of the spectrum is the story of Jacob in ďThe Lives of Philosophers.Ē Readers are introduced to a young graduate student who is on the verge of making decisions that could change the direction of his life, yet he is not sure he wants anything at all to change.

As a child, I loved reading choose-your-own adventure stories, and the author graces readers with one just for adults in the center of the book. Of course, I had to follow each path and could not just stop at one. The author also dabbles in science fiction in a story here and there, adding a nice balance to the collection.

My favorite stories came near the end, one of an associate producer burned out by his job. Another is of a refugee girl who has her photo taken by an American. Perhaps the most powerful is the final story, a fable about a man who buys Godís overcoat at a thrift store one day. There is not one disappointing story in the bunch.

A city that longs for that which it doesnít have, getting more than we bargained for, finding love and in some cases never quite grasping it, facing the consequences of the choices made, remembering what could have been, and taking a chance regardless of the consequences are just a few of the themes readers will discover in Brockmeierís collection. A gentle melancholy hangs over several of the stories, yet several offer a glimmer of hope.

The authorís writing is haunting at times and always lyrical. He seems to take care with his descriptions, weaving his words to create a visual of feeling which comes out on every page. And yet, with all that description, not once does it feel overdone, nor did I grow tired of it. Brockmeier captures the souls of his characters, seemingly ordinary people, each one of them relatable and offering more to the reader than what meets the eye. Time seemed to stop as I read The View from the Seventh Layer: Stories. I cannot recommend it enough.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Wendy Runyon, 2008

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