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- [-] Other Available FormatsOur PriceNew & Used MarketplaceWhere the God of Love Hangs Out (Paperback)
Publisher: Random House Trade$15.00Where the God of Love Hangs Out (Audio Compact Disc - Unabridged)
Publisher: Brilliance Corporation$13.49
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 33.
- Review Date: 2009-10-19
- Reviewer: Staff
Bloom's latest collection (after novel Away) looks at love in many forms through a keenly perceptive lens. Two sets of stories that read much like novellas form the book's soul; the first of which revolves around two couples—William and Isabel, Clare and Charles—and begins with Clare and William falling into an affair that endures divorces, remarriage and illness. Bloom has an unsettling insight into her character's minds: Clare's self-disgust is often reflected in her thoughts about William, demonstrating the complexity of their attraction as their comfort with each other grows, until she finally accepts the beauty of what they have—albeit too late. The second set of stories, featuring Lionel and Julia, is more complicated; the death of Lionel's father propels Lionel and Julia together in a night of grief, remarkable (and icky) mostly because Julia is Lionel's stepmother and his father's widow. As years go by, it is unclear whether Lionel's difficulties are due to that indiscretion, but watching Bloom work Lionel, Julia and her son through the rocky aftermath is a delight. The four stand-alone stories, while nice, have a hard time measuring up against the more immersive interlinked material, which, really, is quite sublime. (Jan.)
The heart of the matter
Amy Bloom has what I might have thought were magical powers if I hadn’t learned that she’s spent time as a psychotherapist. She can jump from one character’s perspective to another’s in the space of a paragraph, fully inhabiting each, as smoothly and unmistakably as if she were doing impressions of famous people onstage. In two lines she can telegraph the essence of a character’s personality, the sum of his years, the battles he’s won and lost and the ones that still rage. And she seems to be able to do this for anyone: the gout-ridden aging Englishman, the mixed-race teenage girl, the gay neighbor, the adulterous earth mother. The stories she tells in her new collection, Where the God of Love Hangs Out, vary widely, but she never overreaches or missteps. That might be because Bloom has one primary concern, and that is the way people act toward and react to one another. Her stories have an almost theatrical quality: she puts several people with complex relationships in a room and lets them have it out—sometimes in dialogue, but mostly through those perfectly tuned inner voices. Most of the stories are linked, centering on two couples: Clare and William, old friends whose spouses are also friends but who begin a love affair; and Lionel and Julia, a stepson and stepmother who share a secret that eats away at both of them. Some of the Lionel and Julia stories were included in Bloom’s previous collections, but reading them all at once enriches the experience of each; the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts that the book actually feels as weighty as a couple of novels. If there’s a weak spot, it’s “By-and-By,” narrated by a girl whose roommate has been murdered by a serial killer; here the narrative focuses on external details rather than penetrating the psyches of everyone involved. But otherwise, each character’s reaction in every story rings true, because Bloom has taken you deep inside their heads. Maybe she does have magic powers, after all. Becky Ohlsen writes from Portland, Oregon.